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Untitled

By bella123 All Rights Reserved ©

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Untitled chapter

Chapter 1

“I told you. There is no way you can get me inside that room.” My best friend Jude, said as we stood in the theater hallway. I told him that we were seeing the new Fast and Furious, but instead I bought tickets for The Fault In Our Stars.

“Come on. Please.” I beg, curling my bottom lip and making my eyes big. I could always get him with the puppy dog eyes.

Jude and I have known each other since we were 15 years old. Before him, I spent all my time with my brothers and their best friend. Once I met Jude, I started hanging out with them much less. Every now and again my brothers, Andy and Denny, and their best friend, Toby, came with Jude and me. They said it was to look out for me. After that night, Toby left and Denny was even more protective of me. The only way I was allowed to go to the college 45 minutes away, was if not only did Jude have to come with me, but if he moved in with me in an off campus apartment.

“Fine! I’ll go see this stupid chick-flick, but…. I get the remote for the week.” Jude looked me in the eyes, before grabbing the popcorn. We always fought over who got to watch what and when.

“Yes! Thank you, thank you, thank you. You’re the best friend a girl could ever ask for.” I kissed his check, grabbed his free hand, and pulled him up the stairs to the back of the theater.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

By the end of the movie, I was in tears. I had to hold on to Jude because my vision was blurred by my tears.

“If I had known you were going to cry, I would have never agreed to this.” Jude said as we walked into the theater lobby. I smiled wiping my eyes. Jude and Danny never like to see me cry.

“Oh, hush. You can’t protect me from everything.” I take a deep breath. “Now how about we meet up with Liam, Jay and Libby for drinks? It’s too early to go home on a Friday night.”

“Sure, let’s go. I’ll text them on the way.” he said as we walked to my car. I drove the same 2011 Chevy Avalanche that I got when I was 17. Now five years later it is still running. I refuse to give my truck up, it is the last gift I have from Andy. Dan and Jude understood why I kept it, but still asked me to get something newer.

“You have to promise me that you will tell Liam and Jay to lay off unless I give the signal. I love that they look out for me, but I want to have fun tonight. No boundaries.” I get in the driver’s seat. I don’t like anyone driving my truck.

“Fine. I’ll try, but they’re just looking out for you. They would do the same for Libby if she wasn’t with Jay. After 4 years together, you know that they think of you as their sister.” I could feel his eyes on my face, but I continued to look at the road.

“Yes, I know. I love them like my brothers too. I always have the three of you - four, if Dan is with us - protecting me whenever we go out. Tonight I will give you this signal if I really need you.” I scratch the tattoo on my wrist. I got it right after Andy died, and Toby left. It’s a small black fish and under the fish it says ‘Just Keep Swimming’. Finding Nemo was my favorite childhood movie, and the quote fit my life. It reminds me to keep going no matter what life throws at me. I may have lost three important people in my life… I will not lose myself.

“Okay. I guess that works.”

“It’s going to have to work.” I look over and smile at him before pulling into the club. It’s a 5 minute walk to our apartment from the club, so Jude and I agreed to leave it here for the night so we could both drink. Usually Jude is the DD, but I told him to let go for the night.

We walk in and I instantly spot them. Libby is dancing in her seat with Jay’s strong arm wrapped around her waist. It looks like he is holding her up. Liam is looking at Libby in humor while drinking his beer. Both guys are wearing jeans and a loose t-shirt and look very hot, they look like they just walked out of a playboy magazine. Jude throws his arm over my shoulder and we walk towards our friends. As we get closer I notice that Jay’s hair is messed up, which means he was dancing with Libby already.

“Hey guys.” Liam and Jay say in unison, while Libby all but falls off the stool and runs into me.

“You’re finally here. I found you someone….” she pulls back and starts to scan the room. “I just need to find him. Oh my god, Ab. He was HOT. I would so-” she gets cut off by Jay’s loud cough, and I giggle.

“Thanks, Lib. Let me know when you see him, eh?” I help her back onto her stool, then take mine across from Jude, on my right is Jay and left is Liam. I kiss both their checks, and mutter hello. I look in front of me to see my favorite drink already at the table. I look up at Jude and he points to Liam.

“I knew you would want to start with your Apple martini, so I got it for you. You can pay me back later.” I could not ask for better friends.

One Apple martini and 4 beers later, I had Libby on the dance floor with me. I made the boys stay back and watch from our table. They didn’t want to listen, but I made sure to promise them to use the signal when - if - needed. Libby and I were spinning around, jumping up and down, and just letting the music control our bodies. Libby stops and I bump into her, when she turns around we both burst out laughing.

“I found him. The guy I was telling you about….. He’s over there.” she says once we’ve calmed down. I follow her finger and find a tall guy standing by the bar. All of a sudden I feel this pull towards him, and everything about him feels safe and familiar. The guy has his back to me so I use the opportunity to look him over. He is wearing a grey shirt that is covered by a black leather jacket. He is wearing blue jeans and his light brown hair is all messy, as if someone messed it up. Not taking my eyes off of him, I give into the pull and walk towards him. I hear Jude calling my name but I don’t look back. When I step behind him I tap his shoulder. That is when my world stops, because this guy who I thought I knew nothing about, was not just some guy. He was the guy who held a big piece of my heart. The guy who held me when I cried, who always played cards when no one else would, the guy who watched cartoons with me when I was sick.

This guy is my everything.

This guy is my brother’s best friend.

This guy is Toby.

Chapter 2

“Oh my…. Toby?” I manage to squeak out. I look into those blue eyes and see the boy who I vowed I will always love. He stared back at me in horror, amazement, happiness and confusion. He opened his mouth to say something, then shut it again.

“Love?”

I flew my arms around his neck and hugged him. “I never thought I would see you again.” His arms come around my waist and pull me into him, before he pushes me back. It was only for a second but I know that he is happy to see me.

“What are you doing here? Why aren’t you at home, in Richmond Hill.” he asked looking behind me, probably at Jude.

“I go to school here. What are you doing here? I thought you dropped off the face of the earth.” My anger taking over my excitement. I know he is happy to see me, he showed it, but why not look it?

“I’m sorry, Love. It’s just hard to believe your dad would let you live and go to school in Newmarket.” he said looking me in the eyes, bagging me to understand. That was the thing, I didn’t.

“Why did you leave, Toby? Danny needed you, I needed you, and you just left.” I don’t bother to tell Jude to leave, he knows what happened. He was there for me when I wanted Toby.

“Can we not talk about this here? Let me take you home and I’ll explain everything.” he said, again bagging me with his eyes. I had to resist the urge to be in his arms again, which did not work out, because I was suddenly surrounded by his smell and the feeling of safety. I felt his strong arms wrap around me again, this time holding on to me.

“Yes. I’ll go anywhere with you, you know that. Let me say good-bye to my friends.” I reluctantly step out of his arms. When he turns to leave I grab his hand. “Come with me?” Toby doesn’t say anything but he follows me when I lead him to our table. “Hey guys. I think I’m going to call it a night. I’ll see you all tomorrow?”

“Yes. Be careful, we don’t need to go to jail for murder.” Liam says pulling me from Toby, wrapping me in a hug and kissing my cheek.

“Nothing to worry about. I trust this guy as much as I trust you guys.”

“See I knew you would like him. I’ll see you tomorrow, Ab.” Libby hugs me before running off to the washroom.

“Alright, honey. I’ll see you bright and early. Lib and I will bring coffee. You just get this one outta bed.” Jay said jabbing a finger in Jude’s direction, before kissing my cheek.

“Yes, I will.” I say before turning to Jude. I give him a hug.

“Are you going to be okay? Are you sure you’re ready to hear all this?” He mumbles into my hair.

“Yes. I think I waited long enough and I need answers. I missed him so much, just being near him is enough.” I pull back and smile. “I love you, and I will wake you to let you know I am back, okay?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We take his car back to his house. The whole 10 minute ride, I keep my eyes locked on him. Both of us not saying anything, while we walk up to his door. Once we are inside, he puts his hand on the small of my back and leads me over to the kitchen. I sit at the island and watch him grab water bottles from the fridge.

“Before I make you hate me even more than you already do, can I just say that I missed you so much? You and your brothers where - are - my family. I never meant to hurt any of you, which is why I left.” Toby sat beside me and took my hand.

“I could never hate you” I whispered. I looked up at him and spoke louder. “Mad at you? Maybe, but never hate. You are our family too. I just want to know why - if you say you feel the same - leave us. Leave me?”

“I left because I could not handle you learning the truth. I was the reason he was in that car…… the night it happened. I killed him.” he said not meeting my eyes.

“No. The police told dad that it was the other cars fault. You weren’t even there.”

“No, I wasn’t. I was at a party and I drank too much. I got into a fight with some of the football team and left. My ride was still at the party, so I started walking. I called Andy to come and pick me up. We agreed to meet at the school, but he never showed. I was too drunk and too tired to worry, so I walked home. I thought your dad caught him or something. The next thing I know my mom was shaking me awake and crying about Andy.” He finally meets my eyes. “I left because if I didn’t get into that stupid fight, or even called him, he would still be alive. I left because I could not stomach the thought of seeing you and knowing I put that pain in your life.”

I wrap my arms around his waist and pull him to me. I burry my face in his chest, just holding him to me. “You didn’t kill him. A guy driving a Jeep, while drunk, killed him. He snuck out to help you because he loved you. You were his best friend, his family. He would do that for Danny, for me, and I’m know you would do it for him. Please stop blaming yourself.”

I hold him tight, not wanting to let him go. After all this time, I found him and find out he left so he would not hurt me.

“Please promise me you won’t leave me again. I can handle anything you throw at me, as long as you’re here.” I mumble into his chest.

He pulls back and cups my face with his hands, so I am forced to look into his baby blue eyes. “I promise, Love. There is no way you are getting rid of me.” I smile at him. “Now, tell me how you knew it was me.”

I laugh. “I didn’t actually. My friend - Libby - she told me that she saw a guy who I would like. She couldn’t find the guy so we started dancing, and that’s when she found him. She pointed to you, but your back was to me so I didn’t know it was you. I felt this… pull to you. I knew that no matter what, you would never hurt me. I soon found myself walking towards you and totally ignoring Jude. Then you turned around….” I trail off wanting nothing more than to be in his arms again.

“I knew you and Jude would last. I mean he is great for and to you -”

“Wait… do you think… I mean we aren’t….” I try to get the right words out but they seem to fail me.

“You’re telling me that you and Jude are not together?” Toby asks. When I nod my head he exhales loudly. “That makes sense now.”

“I mean would it bother you if we were?” I ask cautiously. I watch as he hesitates for only a second before answering me. His loose expression is now tight and guarded.

“No, it’s your life. I just want to protect you and I just thought who better to make you happy than your best friend. Jude has been with you no matter what, he is not leaving. He cares about you, Love.”

“Oh, well it’s not like that with us.” I say pushing down my disappointment. I don’t know why he says those things to me and then act like this. “I know this is going to sound weird but can I stay tonight? I just don’t want this to end. You don’t understand how hard I looked for you. I looked you up on Facebook, google, everything. Dan to me to let it go, but I couldn’t. I knew there was no way that this was over before it even began.” I whisper the last part, not sure if I wanted him to hear it.

I don’t know how it was possible, but Toby moves closer to me. So close that the slightest twitch, we’d be kissing. I could feel this hot breath on my lips, which I wanted so desperately to be replaced by his own lips. I wanted him to hold me and never let me go. I looked up at him under my lashes and saw that his eyes we fixed on my lips. I pull my bottom lip in and bite down - a nervous habit - and Toby sucks in a sharp breath.

“What is this?” he asked, his voice all heavy and husky.

“What?” I am not able to think right with him this close to me.

“You said ‘I knew there was no way that this was over before it even began’. What are you referring to?” his hands make their way to my waist, and mine move around his neck.

“Cold hard truth?”

“Always”

“I know you feel this too. I was… I don’t know what I was thinking.” I wait for him to push me away, to tell me that it was all in my head, but he didn’t. Instead he bent his head so his lips brushed mine.

“I do feel it, believe me. I’m just not sure if it’s the right thing….. You’re my best friend’s sister and you know everything about me. That alone should make you run.” His words are saying one thing but his actions are saying another. I place a quick kiss on his lips, so quick he didn’t have time to pull back, or continue.

“That is the reason I like you. I know everything. I know you eat one slice of pizza, then you pick everything off the rest. I know you slept with the stuffed bear you’re father gave you until you were 16 years old. I’ve seen you drunk, I’ve seen you way past angry, and I’ve seen you pick your butt. I can read you like a book. I know when you’re mad, sad, happy, tired, lying -”

I get cut off when his mouth collides with mine. I personally think it’s cheesy when someone says they felt ‘sparks fly’, but that statement describes this feeling just right. I feel like I am flying and the only thing holding me to the ground, is Toby. I use the heel of my palm to bring him closer, but it does not seem close enough. His soft lips move against mine, never breaking contact. I hold on tight in fear that my legs will give out. Toby’s uses his thumb to rub slow circles into my lower back. As soon as he pulls back, I instantly feel cold without him. We stare at each other, his hands around my waist and mine on his shoulders.

“I… uh….” Toby clears his throat for the third time. Knowing I made him speechless makes me smile.

“That was a nice way to tell me to shut up.” I joke, hoping to lighten the mood. Toby looks at me in horror before tickling my sides.

“Just ‘nice’, huh?” he says as I try to squirm away but he has a steel hold on me. I grab ahold of his hands and pry them off my body, before running to the other side of the room, leaving the island between us.

“Yep, whatcha going to do ’bout it?” I challenge, wiggling my eyebrows at him. I look him in the eyes and see amusement behind them. He takes the two steps that puts him up against the island, and leans in. I feel his hot breathe on my neck as he talks.

“Oh Love, this is a game you might not want to play.” he whispers, his voice all deep and husky.

“Why?” I breathe, suddenly my playful mood is out the window. I want nothing more than to be in his arms…… again.

“Because Love, you won’t win.” Toby tucks a piece of my golden hair behind my ear, and smirking before pulling back. “I’m going to give you a 5 second start. Ready….Go.”

I take off like a bullet. I realize I don’t know this apartment at all. I run into the first room I see and quietly shut the door. I lean against it and let out my breath, I didn’t know I was holding. I look around the room and I notice I am in Toby’s room. I look around and find pictures on the dresser. There is one of his parents, one of him and his dad, and then there was one of the four of us. Andy had Danny in a headlock, and I was laughing at them. I notice that Toby was not laughing at them like I always thought, he was looking at me.

Mom took so many pictures that day - it being my brother’s birthday- I did not notice that this one was different. Toby was looking at me, not the camera or someone else. I look at the next picture of Toby and my brothers. Andy was on the left, Danny on the right, and Toby in the middle. They each had their arms around each other, each with a baseball bat in their hands. This was taken at the Thomson reunion.

Each year my family had this big party in the middle of summer. Family and friends would come from all over. We would have all types of games and contest; pie eating, smashing watermelons, 3 legged race, and more. There would be tons of food, but my mother’s apple rhubarb pie was the best - I’ve been told. When she died - I was 3, my brothers 5 - my father attempted to make it, but it was never the same.

My mom and Toby’s father were friends in high school, and they never lost touch. When mom got pregnant with the boys, his wife got pregnant with Toby. All my life the Fields were always there. 3 years after my mom died, so did Toby’s father.

I hear his footsteps coming closer to the door. I walk backwards into another door. I open it and leave the light off. I let my eyes adjust before I realize that I am in Toby’s bathroom. I get an idea, and I start looking around for what I need. Just as I get into position - in front of the door, but a few steps back - the door swings open. Before Toby can move towards me, I reach behind me and turn the tap. Water flies out of the shower hoes and soaks him. I let it get him good, his shirt clings to his body and water is dripping from his eye lashes, I turn it off. I wait for a minute, watching him, waiting.

We stand there staring at each other, then Toby slowly reaches behind him and pulls his t-shirt off in one swift motion. Before I have time to get a good look, he is lunging at me. I reach behind me and turn the tap, at the same time he grabs the hoes and points it in my face. Water explodes it my face and I blindly try and get the hoes back, but the stream of water has now moved down my body. I am soaked - top to bottom, by the time Toby finally turns off the water.

“I told you so….” Toby says, laughing at my wet appearance.

“Not fair….. I’m cold.” I pout. Toby grabs a towel and stands in front of me. He doesn’t move to wrap it around me and when I try to take it from him, he backs away. “Really?”

“You will stay cold if you stay in the wet clothes….” his eyes meet mine as he swallows hard. Oh. “I’m going to need you to take off your shirt.”

“Well….. At least you asked.” I say, and I regret the words as soon as they leave my mouth. Toby’s blue eyes turn black, but he stays silent, as I undress to my bra and underwear. He still does not say anything as he wraps me into the towel. Never breaking eye contact he picks me up, carries me into his room, and sets me on the bed.

“I have a t-shirt you can borrow. Some boxers too, if you want them.” he says as he walks to the dresser. I can tell by his ridgeback that he was upset.

“Just the t-shirt is fine…… Toby, I’m sorry. I never should have said that.” I keep my eyes fixed on his strong back.

“It’s fine. I just…. I don’t like to think about you with anyone else, Love.” Toby passed me a shirt. It landed just before my knee and it was the old shirt he bought at the fair on my 16th birthday. I can’t believe he kept it… why would he keep it? Toby cuts off my thoughts when he pulls me over to the side of the bed, and pulls back the blankets. He helps me get in then turns and lowers himself on the other side. I turn to face him and his arm snakes around my waist, pulling me into him.

I rest my head over his heart and tucked under his chin. I feel safe, like this is my home. I feel like nothing could touch us, we were both safe, but tomorrow reality awaits. I go back to my life, as does he. I don’t know if he has a girlfriend, or if he even wants to see me again. Just because he said he will not leave does not mean he wants me in his life.

“Goodnight Love.” Toby breathes as he kisses my hair.

“Goodnight Toby.” I yawn. I let the steady beat of his heart lead me into sleep.

Chapter 3

*Beep*

*Beep*

*Beep*

*Beep*

“Make it stop.” I groan, snuggling more into the warm body. I feel the warm body move and then the annoying sound stops.

“Love, time to get up.” the body talks. Only one person calls me that. Toby. Then I remember the bar, Libby, drinks, meeting Toby again, the kiss… Oh, god. Kill me now.

“No….why?” I burry my face into his warm, hard yet soft, chest. I feel him laughing and I look up at him.

“You’re cute when you wake up.” he smiles at me. I smile back. His hair is messy, he has one arm around my shoulders while the other one rests on my side. My leg has hiked its way up this thigh, and my arm resting on his stomach.

“Why are we up so early? It’s dawn” I yawn, then I remember I never brushed my teeth yet and snap my mouth closed. This makes Toby rumble with laughter.

“You have to meet-”

“Jude! Crap.” I scramble out of bed. I rush to the bathroom - which has towels all over the floor - and close the door. Why do these things happen to me? When I finally find Toby, I can’t spend the whole day with him. I look back at my reflection and cringe. My eyeliner and mascara is rubbed all over my eyes. Crap. I look like a raccoon. Shoving my thoughts aside, I freshen up.

It takes me 10 minutes before I return to the bedroom, and I find it empty. The bed is made and there is no sign of Toby. This shouldn’t surprise me, he wanted to be gone so he would not have to talk to me. He was just being nice this morning.

*Bang!*

*Thump*

I walk out into the hallway and the noise gets louder. I soon realize it’s coming from the kitchen. Maybe he stayed? No, don’t get your hopes up. I look around the corner and smile. In the kitchen is Toby, with no shirt, his sweat pants hanging low, cooking something on the stove. I take in the fact that he actually stayed, and making me - us - breakfast. The scents that fill the air are familiar, but I can’t point them. I tip-toe over to Toby and wrap my arms around him from behind.

“Good morning.” I kiss the spot between his shoulder blades.

“Good morning Love.” he turns around to face me. “Can I kiss you now?”

“Mmmm. I don’t know…” I let myself trail off when his hands cup my face. He slowly lowers his head, lips brushing mine, before he gives in and pushes his lips into mine. I melt against him, and kissed him like my life depended on it. I gave him everything I had. I let myself loose myself in the kiss for a few seconds. A few seconds turned into a few minutes…. According to the clock. I look at the stove to see 5 minutes have gone by, and I relatively move out of Toby’s arms. “Sorry. Time to go.”

“Can I call you later?” he asked, putting the pan back on the element, which I didn’t see him take off. I nod and give him one last kiss before I head out the door.

I step out into the cold morning, just now realizing I don’t have my car. Do I go back and ask for a ride back to mine? Do I walk it? Do I call Lib? I glance down the road and to my surprise, I find my solution to my problem. How did he get it here? I look at my truck and smile. I’ll ask him later that just means there will be a later.

The whole drive home I think back on memories with Toby.

~ “Toby…. Please.” I cried. I was sick and wanted someone to sit and watch movies with me. Andy and Danny were off swimming in the creek in the far back of our property. They never wanted to include me, the only time I was included was when Toby said I could.

“Fine, but only for you Love. What are we watching?” 10 year old Toby asked, sitting next to me on the couch. He grabbed my feet and pulled them onto his lap, he started to rub them.

“I don’t know… how ’bout ‘Finding Nemo’?” I sniff into one of many tissues.

“Sure, sounds good.” he said as I put on the movie. Half way through, I moved to lay my head on his lap and he rubbed my head until I fell asleep. ~

~ “Ab! Are you almost ready?!” Jude yelled up the stairs. We were going to our first party - our first high school party - since we’re 16.

“Yes! One sec.” I yell back. If I could just find….. Ah there. My necklace that mom left for me. I wore it everywhere - well, everywhere but the shower. I heard water ruins the chin.-. I put the necklace on and walk down the stairs, and find both my brothers there with Toby. Jude is somewhere, but I can’t see past my three protectors.

“Where do you think you’re going dressed like that?” Andy asked crossing his arms.

“She is going back up to change. What is that stuff on your face?” Danny agreed, then leaned in to inspect my face. I push him back.

“I’m going out with Jude, with this ‘stuff’ on my face… its called make-up. I wear it, now get over it. Please move before I make you.” I say trying to shove past them, but trying to move them is like trying to move a brick wall.

“You’re not going - “Andy starts but Toby cuts him off looking at me.

“Maybe we could go with you guys. I promise we won’t interfere, but we will be there to make sure you’re safe. How does that sound, Love?” Toby says. He always tries to keep the peace between my brothers and me. Never choosing sides, always finding an ultimatum. I love the thought of Toby going to a party with me, but my brothers?

“Fine” I huff. My brothers walk to the door, while Toby stays behind.

“By the way…. You don’t need that shit. You’re beautiful just the way you are, Love” he says before following my brothers. ~

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I open the door to my shared apartment with Jude, and I head straight for his room. I slowly open the door, not wanting to wake him up just yet. I look at him sleeping, so cute and so peaceful. Too bad that won’t last for long. I walk over to his bed, and jump on top of him. He wakes up with a breathless ‘uff’.

“What the hell, Ab” He wines. I wiggle, stand up and start jumping on the bed.

“Libby and Jay will be here in 30. So get your ass up and dressed.” I down at him and smile sweetly. I watch as he drags himself off into the bathroom, mutter a chain of curse words. He is going to need coffee. Jude does not function properly without caffeine. I walk into the kitchen to brew him a cup. I’m waiting when my phone goes off. I expect a text form Libby or Jay, but it’s Toby.

*I miss you*

*I left 20 minutes ago*

*That’s too long. Come back?*

*Can’t, Sorry. See you later?*

*100%. See you then.*

I don’t get to ask him about my truck because Jude walks into the room. I quickly fix his highness a cup.

“Did I ever tell you that you’re-” I cut him off by holding up the steaming cup of coffee. I see his eyes fill with lust. “-the best person in the whole world. I am so lucky to have you as my best friend for life.” he said grabbing the coffee and taking a whiff.

“Yea, yea. Whatever.” I mumble into my own cup.

“So…. You going to tell me what happened?” Jude moaned after taking his first sip.

“Not much to tell. He said he left because he feels responsible for Andy’s death, and he didn’t want to see the pain in Dan’s eyes or mine. I made him promise not to leave again. Then… we… kissed.” I saw the last three words slowly. I still can’t believe I kissed my first love, childhood love, brother’s best friend and my protector. Jude spits his mouthful of coffee on to the island.

“You what?!” he said grabbing napkins from beside him, never breaking eye contact with me.

“What? I like him, have my whole life. I found out last night that the feeling is mutual, maybe it always has been. I don’t know.” I don’t have to wait for his answer because the front door opens and Libby and Jay walk in.

“Good morning. How is everyone?” Jay asks slapping Jude on the back, who groans in return. Jay comes up to me and kisses my cheek. “Hey honey.”

“Hey, Jay. Coffee?”

“Nah, had some in the car.” he walks over to sit beside Jude. I shrug and set the coffee pot down, when I feel arms wrap around me.

“Hey sexy. How was the night with that hot guy?” she wiggles her eyebrows making me laugh, causing the guys to look over at us. I look at Jay then Libby.

“That guy last night… he was not just some guy. I grew up with him. He was my brother’s best friend.” I say like it’s no big deal.

“What? How come I’ve never meet him?” Libby asks.

“Don’t get me wrong… I like the guy, but there was nothing special about him.” Jude pipped up causing Libby’s head to snap to his. She gave him the stink eye then looked back at me.

“You’re telling me that this asshat meet the guy but not me?”

“Jude meet him when he meet me. I’ve known Toby since I was born, and I’ve known Jude since I was 16, you know that. Toby and my brothers were always around, they were my protectors.” Jude laughed along with me, which was what we used to call them. “Toby left 5 years ago after my brother Andy died. I never knew where he was… until last night.”

“Oh. Well I guess I can’t be mad at you then, huh.” Libby smiles at me, and I know all her anger has faded.

“Nope, you can’t.”

“Great… well we should go now, ladies. Otherwise we will be late and it will all get blamed on us.” Jay made a motion between himself and Jude, Libby and I agreed, then walked out to the car.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Libby, Jay, Jude, and I walk into the mall - Upper Canada, in Newmarket. We had to get here early so we would be one of the first people in the store. When ‘Garage’ has a 10 minute sale, you need to get to the mall early. Libby and I bring the guys most of the time so we have people to help with the bags. Lib and I need new clothes for the concert tonight. We’re seeing ‘Twenty-one Pilots’.

“Is it really necessary that we go into every store?” Jay asks.

“No. We are only going into every woman’s clothing stores.” Lib giggles, linking her arm through mine. “So when am I going to officially meet his mysterious - hot - brother best friend - protector guy?”

“Nice name… Um I guess after the concert? We could all go back to mine for pizza?” I look over at Jude, for confirmation, and he just shrugs.

“Good. Jay, can you text Liam and let him know.” Lib throws over her shoulder, pulling me into Garage

We try on three outfits before we buy one each. Next Lib and I hit up “Bluenotes’, I buy two sweaters and a pair of jeans. Lib bought two new skirts and a crop top. Jude takes my bags from me, when we walk into the next store, then the next. By the sixth store, we are eating lunch.

“My feet are killing me.” I winned, making Jude and Jay laugh.

“Y’all shopped till ya dropped.” Jude says sipping his third coffee.

“Well we are not done yet. I need to go to the bookstore.” They all groan. I can’t go to the mall without walking into a bookstore. My goal is to have my own bookstore.

“Don’t you have enough?” Jay asks, putting his arm around Lib.

“How much is enough?” I reply. I take out my phone to text Toby.

*You free tonight? My friends want to meet you. Jude will be there too.*

The reply come instantly.

*Sure. When and where?*

*My place, say 10?*

*I’ll be there, should I bring anything?*

*Just you’re hot, funny self. We are having pizza and beer.*

*Sounds good. See you then Love*

“Ab… You in there?” Jude is snapping his fingers in front of my face. I slap his hand away.

“Yes… Now let’s go.”

Chapter 4

The concert was awesome. The four of us were a circle of dancing, sweaty bodies. The guys never left us alone. I had to go pee and I had to take Jude with me. On the way home we picked up 3 large pizzas, 2 Hawaiian, and a 3 meat. We walk into the apartment, and to no surprise Liam is sitting on the couch watching T.V. We each have a spare to each other’s apartments.

“Finally. I’m hungry.” Liam jumps up from the couch, and follows us to the island. When the doorbell rings, I answer it.

“Hello Love.” Toby says before I pull him in for a kiss. Our lips move together, and it feels like forever since I’ve seen him.

“Hello Toby. Come on in.” I say, breathless when we pull apart. He smiles at me before walking in. I interlock our fingers and walk into the kitchen. “Guys this is Toby. Toby this is Libby, Jay, Liam, and you remember Jude.”

“Yea, hey man.” He nods his head at Jude. “Nice to meet you guys.”

“So…. You’ve known Ab and her family for like… ever.” Liam asks, smirking, I shoot him a look.

“Yes. Our parents we friends, so we grew up next door to each other. I was also her brother’s best friend. I meet Jude when him and Love’ were 16.” Toby confirmed.

“So you must know a few stories about them. I mean, they never tell us the good stuff.” Jay said, offering Toby a beer which he gladly takes.

“Aha. Yes, I have a few for Jude, but Love, I have plenty.” Toby wraps his arm around my shoulders, and mine goes around his waist. It all feels so natural with him.

“Please do tell….” Libby pipes up. We now each have a beer, and have now moved into the living room. Libby and Jay take the love seat, Jude and Liam take the couch, and Toby takes the recliner. I sit between his legs and rest my head on his left thigh.

“Are you sure you don’t want the chair?” Toby whispers in my ear.

“No, I’m good here.” I whisper back. I snuggle into his thigh to prove my point.

“Okay, it was 2 days before Christmas and she 6 years old.” I giggle and burry my face deeper into his tight, already knowing the story. No one will let me live it down, especially him. “We were sitting in the living room watching ‘A Christmas story’, and Love just got up. She walked over to the Christmas tree in the corner of my parent’s living room, and said “Toby, look. Red candy!” I turn around to see her biting into the red candy, instead it was not candy. It was a red Christmas light.” He finishes with a full belly laugh, and everyone follows.

“I was 6 years old!” I protest when I stop laughing.

“Yes, Love, but it’s still funny.”

“And you guys never let me live it down.” I state.

“Why would we let you live something like that down?” Jude says, his mouth full of pizza.

“Because you love me.” I smile at him and bat my eyes.

“Why do you call her ‘Love’?” Jay asks. His arm is around Libby, playing with a stray piece of her hair.

“That my friend is a good story.” I look up to see Toby staring at me. I’ve never heard why he calls me that. I just never questioned it, I loved that he had his own name for me. “It was the day of her 4th birthday party. Her brothers and I were playing in their sandbox, while Abbi sat on the grass eating her favorite food, Jelly Belly’s. She started throwing the ones she did not like at us, trying to get our attention. “It’s my birthday, you have to play with me” she cried. I felt bad so I played with her. That was the first time I really ever played with her, and in those moments I knew.”

“Knew what?” Libby asks Toby, leaning forward wanting to hear more.

“Knew I loved her. That I would do anything to make her smile, to protect her.” he replied never taking his eyes off me. All the people in the room seem to fade away, and it’s just Toby and I. “After that I only saw her. She was beautiful inside and out. When I found out she was dating someone or wearing that shit that people call make up, I wanted to put my fist throw a wall and tell you how I felt. But Andy said he would have my head on a silver platter.”

I get up and sit on his lap. “I love you too.” I whisper before I kiss him. His lips are soft but rough. As my lips move against his I hear a faint sound of clapping, but I don’t care. Toby takes my face is his hands and deepens the kiss. I am breathless by the time we pull apart. I look over at my friends to find them all smiling, even Jude.

Chapter 5

The next week is amazing. I go to my classes, and Toby is always there when I come home for dinner. He has been staying at my apartment every night this week, and cooking dinner. In my eyes, things couldn’t get any better. Tonight he made my favorite, homemade chicken wraps with caesar salad. It’s just Toby and I because Jude is hanging out with Liam, they are hanging out at Moonlight, a little cafe around the corner that also sells books. They always invite me because they know I love the books and their coffee - the five of us lived of their coffee our first year - but this time they didn’t. I know it seems weird, it’s just coffee, but I feel kind of left out.

“How was class today?” Toby asks interrupting my thoughts. I look up at him and smile. I won’t tell him about Sam, not yet.

“It was boring. Nothing big. What did you do?” I get up and put my plate way.

“I went home.” He says like it’s nothing. He hasn’t been home for 5 years, he is not getting off that easy. All my thoughts of Jude and Liam fly out the window.

“You what? Why didn’t you tell me? I would have come with you. How was it? What did-?”

“I didn’t see anyone, Love.” I look over at him, but he is not looking at me. I walk over to where he is standing, looking out the balcony door. I wrap my arms around him from behind and rest my head between his shoulders, waiting for him to continue. “I couldn’t do it. I drove to our street and I saw my house. Mom was sitting on the front porch, like she always did, with your dad. They were drinking coffee and laughing. What if she never wants to see me again? Or your dad….” he trails off.

“Your mom would love to see you. You’re her son, no matter what, she loves you. As for my dad…. He wants to see you too. We all were waiting - hoping - for the day were you would come back. You were like a third son to my dad, he loves you. If anything, it’s Dan you have to worry about.” I say softly, not wanting to scare him into never going back home. Truth is, they need him to come home.

“If - when - I do this, will you be there with me?” Toby turns around and his arms wrap around my waist, holding me to him. Like I’d ever leave him or let him do any of this alone.

“Of course. I will be with you the whole time. You’d have to kill me to keep me here.” I smirk up at him.

“Well, I don’t want you dead. I kind of like having you around.”

“Oh really?”

“Yea. You pick really good movies.” Toby jokes. I fake being hurt which causes him to kiss my pouted lips. “And…. I love you.”

“I love you too.” I reply before kissing him back. “So we will go home his afternoon.” I state leaving no room for him to get out of it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We are driving to Toby’s mom’s house. Toby is holding my hand and bouncing his leg. I know he is nervous, and I want to help but I don’t know how. I look over at him, he is staring out the window. He looks tired. As if he could feel my eyes on him, he turns and his eyes immediately lock on mine. After a few seconds I force my eyes back on the road, but I can still feel his eyes on me.

“It’s going to be okay, Toby.” I squeeze his hand. “We’re going to walk in there, your mother will cry, you will too. There will be some questions, but nothing you can’t handle. Then we will have lunch and everything will go back to normal” I hope….

“You won’t leave right….. Even if the questions become….” he trails off, his voice laced with panic.

“Of course not. I will only leave if you want me to, even then I won’t be far.” I smile at him before pulling into his driveway.

“That will never happen” Toby whispered, bringing our interlocked fingers to his mouth and kissing the back of my hand. We stay in the car for a few more silent moments, then he breathes. “I’m ready.”

We just made it to the bottom of porch steps when Mrs. Fields comes out. She and Toby stare at each other for what seems like forever, but then she is running down the stairs. Toby had just enough time to let go of my hand, before his mother was pulling him into a hug. Toby does nothing for a few seconds, but then he wraps his strong arms around his mother.

“My baby is home.” Mrs. Fields cries as she holds her son. She slowly starts rocking Toby and that’s when I realize his eyes are squeezed closed, and his cheeks are wet. Toby was crying. The sight of him crying, and Mrs. Fields crying, sends silent tears into my eyes. Mrs. Fields pulls herself from Toby and wraps her arms around me. “Thank you, my sweet girl. You brought my baby home.” She whispers in my ear, kissing my cheek, then pulling away. She grabs my hand, then Toby’s, pulling us inside.

Toby and I sit on the old, brown couch that Mrs. Fields refuses to get rid of, and watch her as she calls my father. I grab Toby’s hand and slowly rub circles into the inside of his wrist. The action makes him shiver. The fact that I still affect him in an intense time like this, makes me smile. It’s not long before my father burst through the front door in his apron.

“Nice outfit, daddy.” I say giggling, making Toby and his mom laugh along with me.

“I hear Toby was home. I dropped everything to get here ASAP” my dad said looking from me to Toby, to our locked hands, then back again. “Come here, son.” Toby is up and slapping my dad’s back in that man hug thing. I remember how much Toby loved it when my dad called him that. His face would always light up. I watch them together and I instantly know Toby missed my father, as much as my father missed him. “Why don’t you tell us how you found your way to us?” My dad said sitting down next to Mrs. Fields, and Toby sitting next to me.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Toby, Mrs. Fields, my father, and I were sitting in the living room, just after explaining everything to them, when we heard my brother.

“Toby? Shit, man. I thought you were dead.” I turn around to see my brother standing by the back door. We had been so caught up in explaining everything that we never heard him come in. Toby squeezes my hand harder. If he was nervous before, he is even more so now. I remember Toby saying that he was worried my brother would blame him, or get mad that he left with no word. “Ab, I’ve got to give you credit. You never stopped believing that he was alive.”

“Thanks, Dan. Are you mad?”

“At you? At Toby? Nah, I just missed my friend more than pissed off at him.” He says with a big smile. Toby stands up just as Dan reaches us. “I’m really glad you’re back home, bro.”

“I’m glad I’m back too.” Toby replied slapping my brothers back. Toby takes his seat next to me, his hand finding mine, while my brother takes the seat that my father and Mrs. Fields so discreetly left. I’ll have to ask them later how they always sneak out of the room unnoticed.

“So y’all are together.” My brother says like it’s nothing.

“W-what?” I look at him to make sure I hear him correctly. I’m shocked that he managed to figure it out when we haven’t even told our parents yet. I look over at Toby, but he is really calm, giving nothing away, then look back at my brother.

“Don’t look so confused, Ab. I just watched you two while you guys explained why you left to dad and your mom. You both held onto each other like the other would suddenly disappear. I get it. Honestly, I think Andy would have loved seeing you two finally together. God knows that whoever you would date would never be good enough for you in Andy’s eyes, because he like the idea of you too together. He use to swear to me that he saw you two making eyes at each other.” Dan smiles at me.

I look over at Toby, who is watching my brother. When he looks back at me, he just smiles. “I promise on my life that I will protect her. Andy was right, I could never take my eyes off of her.”

“Yea, best friend or not. You hurt my little sister, I’m forced to kill you.” Dan says with a straight face, staring down Toby - who I can now freely call my boyfriend. “Now does someone want to tell me how the hell you’re alive? Not the crap you told your mom, the real shit.”

“Well it was hard. I spent all my money for the way to Kitchener. I just had enough for two nights at a motel, then I was out. I look for a job and got one right away. I started working for an auto shop, and when everyone left I would sleep on the couch in the boss’s office. One day he caught me and instead of firing me, he gave me a place to stay with everything included.” Toby tells my brother. I had already heard all this, but it still hurts me to know he took help from a stranger, than to just come home.

“You know you could have come home….or at least called me or Ab. We’ve never blamed you and never would.”

“I’m sure you heard me tell my mom why I left and stayed away. I could not handle it, seeing you guys upset. It doesn’t matter that you guy’s never blamed me, I blamed myself, and a small part of me still does. It doesn’t matter, it’s in the past now.” Toby says a little more forceful, not too much, but just enough to be noticed. I had to stop this conversation before it gets ugly.

“Yea, let’s leave it in the past. Does anyone else wonder what that smells is?” I ask sniffing the air. It smells like Chicken parmesan.

“My mamma’s chicken parmesan! Damn I miss that smell.”

The three of us walk into the kitchen and find my dad and Mrs. Fields laughing, standing by the stove. When they look up and spot us, they laugh even harder.

“What’s so funny?” Toby asks, holding back his own laughter.

“We were just talking about when you were little. You and the boys were always getting in trouble, even when you were 2.” Mrs. Fields says through her laughter. Beside me, both Dan and Toby were chuckling.

“Yea. We did a lot of stupid shit…… still do.” Dan said. He moved passed Toby and I, and sat at the kitchen table.

“What did you do now?” I pull Toby and follow Dan to the table. I have each man sit beside me. I felt so protected. I love that I now have them both back in my life, but still feel like my protecting squad was incomplete. Toby grabs onto my thigh under the table, silently helping me through whatever crap my brother is into now.

“I’m glad the whole family is here now.” he said looking at Toby. “I have big news. I don’t want anyone to try and convince me otherwise, because this is happening. I’d like to think of this as a blessing in disguise. I want y’all to know I’m truly happy. The happiest I’ve been in 5 years.” he waited for everyone to nod their head in agreement. Then he swings his eyes to meet mine. “Ab, you’re going to be an aunt.”

“What?!” Both dad and Mrs. Fields yell together.

“Damn, Dan.” Toby mutters, but he has a faint smile on his lips. I say nothing, still looking at my brother with my mouth open. I watch as Dan gets up and stands in front of everyone.

“I love her, okay. I mean we didn’t plan this, but then again no one really does. I’ve been seeing her for 7 months now, and she is still with me. I’ve done so much shit and almost mess this up, but she is still with me. I didn’t want to bring her here because I was scared that one day she would wake up and realize what a piece of shit I am, and leave. We both decided this was something we were both ready for and wanted.” He turned to look at all of us. “I want this, dad, Jenny, Toby and Ab.”

“Well if you love her and this is something at you both agree on, then we will be with you every step of the way. We love you and I’m sure this girl and your baby will be well loved too.” Mrs. Fields - Jenny - hugged my brother. My father agreed then hugged him next. Toby slapped him on the back and congratulated him. When both my protectors turned to look at me, I let the tears fall. I speed walked into my brothers embrace, hating the small sob escape me. I faintly heard everyone laughing, but I did not care. I was going to be an aunt, my brother was in love, and he was growing up. Did I mention that my brother was happy?

“Are those happy tears?” Danny asked, rubbing my back. I pull back just enough to smack him across the chest.

“Of course, you idiot. My brother is going to be a father, and he is in love. I’m going to be an aunt. And my brother is really happy. How could I not be happy?” I kiss his cheek then move back beside Toby. His hand instantly finds mine and we thread our fingers together.

“Now that I have opened up…… how ’bout that food?” Danny asks rubbing his hands together and licking his lips.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“How was everyone?” Jude asks when Toby and I walk through the door. Jude is sitting on the couch playing GTA with Jay. They pause their game, watch us move into the living room, waiting for an answer.

“Mom and Pet were fine, and Dan, well he was happy to have me back as well. I’d say it went good.” Toby said falling onto the loveseat. I hugged both my friends, then sat down next to Toby.

“Yea, it couldn’t have gone any better. Dan…. had some news.” I lean forward to grab Jay’s beer. As I lean back, I notice his eyes are narrowed, but he does not say anything. I smile at the memory of when I first started selling Jay and Liam’s food and drinks. They both freaked out, but Jude told them no matter what they do… I will still do it. He told them that once I get comfortable with someone, I steal their food and drinks. I’ve been doing it to him for years. Jay and Liam even stopped objecting, and just let it be. Soon enough, I had Libby stealing the guy’s food all the time. Looking at Jay, I smile wide.

“What did he do now?” Jude groaned.

“Well….. In about 7 months there will be a little Thompson to dress up.” I reply with a smile on my face. The idea of being an aunt still shines bright.

“Really? He got a girl pregnant?” Jay asks while Jude is doubled over laughing. Toby chuckles at Jude, while I answer Jay.

“Yeppers. He said loves her, and this is something they are both ready for and want.”

“I can just imagine your dad and Jenny’s face.” Jude manages to get out through his laugher. Now Toby was laughing with him.

“Their face were funny.” Toby says when he was done with his fit.

“Who’s the mother?” Jay wonders out loud. I have to admit that it bothers me not knowing who this girl is.

“I don’t know. He said he has been seeing her for 7 months now, but no one has met her yet.” I think back to 7 months ago, but no girl comes to mind. I can’t believe I didn’t notice that he is happier. I will always feel bad about that.

“Well watching him try and raise this child will be the best 18 years of my life.” Toby says, and we all agree. Deep down, I know my brother could do it, but what worries me is how much he will mess up before he gets there. Toby shifts us so we are laying down, our feet hanging over the edge. My head rests on his chest, and my arm is slung over his stomach. Toby’s arm is around my shoulders, holding me to him, and absently playing with my hair. We watch the boys play their game, but I let my mind wonder. I think ahead a year, two, and what my brother will be doing. I can see him walking around with my little niece and her mama. His whole life will be based on them, his little family. I let my mind take in the idea of having a sister, and the thought makes me smile. I’ve always wanted a sister. Growing up with 3 boys, then finding Jude, made me want a sister even more. Not that I regretted growing up with my 3 protectors, I saw the bound that the 3 of them had, made me want that too. I’ve never been able to have a girl friendship stick, so I found my bound with Jude, and I was happy with that. Now that I’ve got Libby…. I’m happy. I’m just happy I’ll have a girl to go shopping with other than Libby. A girl I can call my sister.

I soon start to feel my eyelids start to feel heavy. In Toby’s arms, I listen to the boys fight over the game and the causal talk. I let their voices and Toby’s beating heart send me into deep, peaceful sleep.

Chapter 6

It’s been 3 weeks since Danny told us he would be a father, Toby saw our family, and Toby and I went public with our relationship. Toby, Jude and I are going to my father’s house for dinner, to meet the girl who is going to be the mother of my brother’s baby, and the girl he loves. This the first Sunday dinner were it was just our family; Jenny, dad, Jude, Dan, Toby, and I. The sound of a car pulling into the apartment parking lot, breaks my thoughts, and I look out the window and see Toby’s truck.

“Jude! Let’s go.” I yell walking to the front door. When I get to the door Jude opens his. “Let’s go…. I don’t want to be late.”

“Jezze, Ab. We won’t be late.” He said slowly walking to the door. Once he got in front of me, I shoved him out the door. I all but pulled him down the 2 flights of stairs and out the main door.

“Hey, I was going to come and get you…..” Toby said as I pulled open the passenger door and crawled in.

“It’s a good thing we come down before you came up. She would have kicked you out, like she did me.” Jude groans, crawling in the back seat, and laying his head on the window.

“I only kicked you out because you were slow and I don’t want to be late. I’m like this all the time, you know this. I’m just more…. rushed because I’m meeting this girl today.” I explain to Jude, then turn to Toby. “I wouldn’t have kicked you out…. I like you.” I lean in and kiss him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The drive was 45 minutes long, but felt like 2 hours. Jude fell asleep about 10 minutes after we left, while I was singing along to the radio. Toby he’s kept his right hand on my thigh, and smirked at me the whole time. As we got out of the car, I notice Toby’s mother’s house is dark. I guess she is already here, which was not a surprise. A still sleepy Jude walked into my father’s house and fell - face first - on to the couch.

“Shut up Ab.” Jude groans into the pillow. I’m standing at the end of the couch laughing at him. Toby was now in the kitchen talking to someone, who I assume is Dan.

“Jude! Long time no see, man.” My brothers booming voice makes Jude flinch, making me laugh harder.

“I’m going to kill you, D” Jude’s hand shoots out, swatting the air, hoping he will hit Danny.

“What’s wrong with him?” Danny asks still laughing, walks over to me and gives me a big bear hug.

“What’s not wrong with him?” I answer him when he puts me down. My brother takes a few steps back, and instantly a girl is clinging to him arm. They both laugh at my comment. “Jude is a little hung over….. Again. This time he is blaming Jay.” I move my eyes to the girl holding on to my brother. She is about the same size as me, brown hair and blue eyes. She is wearing black leggings and a light blue plaid shirt. You could see her cute little baby bump perfectly. “Hey, I’m Abbi, but you can call me Ab.” I point to Jude “That is my best friend, Jude.” Then move my eyes back to Dan. “I’m Dan’s innocent little sister.”

“Innocent my ass.” Both Jude and Danny mumble, making me narrow my eyes at them.

“Nice to meet you…. I’m Grace.” She giggles.

“Hi Grace….” Jude’s pillow talks.

“Hey-” she starts to say something, but Jenny cuts her off.

“Jude, did you come to another family dinner hung over?” Jenny is standing in the doorway to the kitchen, and beside her is Toby. His eyes meet mine, instantly making mine light up. He walks up behind me, and wraps his arms around my waist.

“No! Who said that?” Jude sat up and his eyes locked on Toby and I. “I would never do such a thing.”

“Sure. Who was it this time?” My dad asks, now standing beside Jenny.

“Jay” Toby, Dan and I say, smiling. My dad and Jenny just shake their heads. The move back into the kitchen, leaving the 5 of us alone.

“So Grace, how’s my little niece doing?” I ask with a smirk, loving the feeling of being in Toby’s arms.

“A girl? Really, Love?”

“Yes, Toby. We don’t need another Dan running around.” I reply laughing, as my brother gives me the finger. Toby and Jude laugh too.

“Well, I want a girl too, Ab. Don’t worry, right now she is behaving well, but my doctor says that won’t last.” She says to me, laughing a little. The five of us chat and laugh until Jenny comes out to tell us dinner is ready. We walk into the kitchen and I inhale. The kitchen smells good. My dad and Jenny sit at each end of the table, Jude is across from me and Toby is beside me, while Dan and Grace are next to Jude. Jenny made tacos, but since I do not eat ground beef, she made me chicken to go with mine. The thought of ever eating ground beef makes me want to throw up. Toby must have noticed my face because he puts his hand on my thigh, under the table. I look up at him and smile. How did I get so lucky to not only have him back in my life, but to be able to call him mine?

“Ab, you should invite the guys and Libby over to your house on Saturday. Grace and I will come, Toby and Jude will be there, and we will have a night… all of us, like old times.” Dan says, shoveling stuff into his taco.

“Yea, sounds good.” I agree.

“Oh my god. You and Liam will not try to paint our walls with you butts… again. If so, I need $50 each.” Jude asks, making Toby and I laugh.

“No. That was his idea, not mine.” Dan defends himself, but it just makes Jude and I laugh harder.

“Actually you said ‘Liam I bet I can paint a picture with my ass better than you.’” I giggle, Toby, Grace, and Jude are laughing with me. Dad and Jenny are chuckling too.

“Ab…..” Dan says in warning making me smile back at time.

“Okay, guys. That enough. I’m pretty sure this is why he didn’t bring Grace here in the first place.” Jenny turns to Grace. “I wish I could tell you that it is not always like this, but I can’t.”

“Thanks, Jenny. I knew you loved me.” Dan says narrowing his eyes at Toby, Dad and I.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Ab! I need you and Jude to come……” Liam’s voice comes through my phone. We are all still at my dad’s house, sitting in the living room telling stories and laughing. The panic in Liam’s voice makes my stomach drop and the color to drain from my body. I have to grab Toby’s leg to keep from falling over.

“Liam? What’s wrong?” At the sound of my voice everyone stops talking and looks at me. Jude moves from his seat on the floor to the other side of me.

“It’s really bad, Ab. There was a lot of blood….” He trails off and I sucked in a sharp breath.

“Blood? Liam, what the hell is going on? “I whisper the first part, but say the last a little more forcefully. Jenny gets up and starts packing everyone’s things.

“Libby has been hit by a car.” Even though I expected it, Liam’s whispered confirmation makes me drop the phone. Jude catches the phone and starts talking to Liam, but I can’t make out the words.

“She….. she…. I need to go.” I mumble. When I get up both Toby and Dan are by my sides. They grab me to keep me steady. My one of my best friends was in a crash… and I wasn’t there. Was she alone? Did she have a lot of pain before help got there? Was she scared? Is she…? No. I couldn’t think like that.

“Okay, Toby, drive them to the hospital and we will be right behind you.” My dad told Toby, his eyes looking at me. I could see the concern in his eyes. Toby nods his head and pulls me forward, making Dan let go of me. By the look on my brother’s face, I could tell that he did not want to leave me - and only did because I had Toby.

“I’ll be right behind you, okay.” Dan said, I nodded not really hearing his words. He says something to Toby, then we are out the door. Jude is in the back, still on the phone. Toby had to put me in the front seat. I keep replaying Liam’s words in my head ‘So much blood’. I silently pray that I don’t lose someone else I love.

As soon as the car is parked, I run inside the hospital, leaving Toby and Jude inside the car. I run all the way to the info station. “I’m here to see Libby Glines. She was hit by a car.” I choked the words out.

“Are you family?” he asks, looking me up and down.

“Yes. I am her sister.” I rush out. The guy does not seem to believe me, but points me in the right direction. My eyes follow her finger and a sad, tired looking Jay meets my eyes. When his eyes meet mine they are red and puffy, they start to water. I run into his arms, wrapping mine around his shoulders when his wrap around me waist. Jay starts to cry into my shoulder.

“I don’t know what’s going on…… they won’t tell me anything.” he sobs out. I hear Toby and Jude come up behind me. Jude goes to Liam, but Toby stays behind me.

“Shhh. It’s going to be okay….. It has to be.” I mumble. When we break apart he looks behind me at Toby, nods his head, and then turns his attention back to me. Toby is behind me with his hands on my shoulders. Jude and Liam come over, and soon we are forming our circle.

“We were driving home from Liam’s - Like every Sunday. We were fine, then she told me. She got offered a job, but it was in Miami. She got the job of her dreams……..but she turned them down. I got mad and told her she should take it. She got mad and said that this is what I was waiting for…. My chance to leave her, without feeling bad. I pulled over and got out, yelling at her that she was insane, and of course, she followed me. She just kept going on and on - telling me to get it over with. So I did.” He locks his eyes on mine as he pulls something out of his back pocket. I look down at the black box, and my eyes start to water. I bring my hands to cover my mouth. “I asked her to marry me. She was so shocked, she just stood there with a small smile on her face. That’s when it happened. I screamed at her to move, but she just stood there, staring at the truck. It trapped her between their truck and our car.”

“I’m so sorry, Jay.” I sob wrapping my arms around him again. I squeeze him tight, not wanting to let go.

My dad, Jenny, Dan and Grace showed up 10 minutes after we did. Dan was by my side. I smiled a little. My protectors never liked the idea of me in pain. As soon as Dan came, Toby went to get coffee for everyone. I sat beside Jay, holding his hand. Liam and Jude sat on the other side of Jay, and Grace sat beside my brother. My dad and Jenny were trying to get any information they could.

“Are you okay, Ab?” Dan asked. He looked at me with sad eyes, making me consider lying to him.

“No…. I’m not fine.” I tell him the truth. I lean my head on my brother’s shoulder. Dan kissed my head and whispered that it was going to be okay. I willed myself to believe him, but I couldn’t. My mind kept going back to 5 years ago.

~ Dan, Dad, Jenny and I were standing around, listening to my brother’s doctor. I kept my eyes on the ground, waiting for him to tell us that we could see Andy. As the doctor said those words “I’m sorry for your loss….” I snapped my eyes up to his. I collapsed on the ground, not crying like Dan, and not sobbing like Jenny and dad. I’m just empty. How can someone be laughing with you one minute, then be gone then next? Dan sits on the ground with me, pulling me into his arms. Only then do I really realize what is happening. My big brother is dead, never coming back. I fall into Dan, letting my body shake with my sobs. I clench my now only brother’s shirt and cry for the loss of my brother. ~

“Love? Can you please eat this?” Toby is kneeling in front of me, holding a sandwich in one hand and his other on my thigh. After 3 hours of being here and still no word, Dad and Jenny took Grace home. They said they will be back in the morning, but call if we hear anything. We are going on hour 5 and still no word. We know she is in surgery, but that’s all. Jude and Liam are asleep in their chairs across from Jay, Dan and I. Remembering that Toby asked me a question, I look into his sad blue eyes.

No. I don’t think I can…” I slowly answer him, and turn towards Jay. “Jay…. Please eat. You look so pale.”

“I’ll eat this if you eat it with me.” Jay’s soft voice is now laced with pain. He looks at Toby then back to me. I nod, willing to do anything as long as he is eating.

“Thank you.” Toby mutters to Jay when I take half the sandwich, and Jay takes the other half.

“She and Lib are a lot alike. They always put others before themselves.” Jay whispers, taking my hand again. When Dan gets up to go to the washroom, Toby takes his spot next to me. I’m so grateful to have them. If not both, than one is always by my side and the other is not too far.

“Miss Glines’ family?” A young male doctor walks into the waiting room. He is wearing blue scrubs and a white lab coat. Jay and I shoot up and walk up to him, leaving Toby to wake up the boys.

“Hello, I am Libby’s sister and this is her fiancée. How is she?” I ask one we reach the doctor. I place a hand on Jay’s arm, while my other was instantly filled with Toby’s. Liam and Jude both stand behind Jay and me.

“Yes, well when the car trapped her, it broke both her ribs. In the ambulance Libby’s lung collapsed, but we got her an airway. She has a broken leg but nothing major on her lower body. There was a lot of internal bleeding, but we got it under control. She is in recovery and you will be able to see her now. You should know she does not look good.” he finishes just as Danny appears behind Toby.

“Thank you, Doctor…...” Jay trails off not knowing the doctors name.

“Oh. Doctor Steel. I can only allow two at a time for now.” he says before walking away. I look at Jay, begging with my eyes for him to take me with him. When he turns and nods at me, I let out a sob; A sob of happiness. I turn and kiss Toby’s cheek, then hug Liam and Jude.

“Look out for her in there, man. Please.” Dan asks Jay, who nods his head. I grab Jays hand tightly and together we walk to Lib’s room. Jay walks into the room first, then me right on his heels. Jay walks over to her right side, and I go to her left.

I grab her hand and whisper to her, knowing somehow she can hear me. “Come on Lib, wake up. You need to wake up. We have a wedding to plan and we are already behind.” I look up at Jay, his eyes on her and his hand holding hers like she will suddenly disappear. His eyes are red and puffy but they never leave her face. I lean in closer to Lib, so Jay can’t hear me. “Plus your man needs you - we all do.”

“Baby…. I’m here. I’m not going anywhere, I promise.” Jay tells her, kissing her hand. At the touch of his mouth and the sound of his voice, her heart rate picked up. I laugh and so does Jay. I kiss her cheek then go over and kiss Jay’s.

“I think I’m going to let one of the guys in. I will be back.” I promise them both. When I walk into the waiting room Toby and Dan are by my side. They both know how hard this is. I tell them that one of them could go in and Jude goes in first.

“How was she, Ab?” Liam asks, I can tell by his voice that he was scared, he was just being strong for Jay and me.

“She…. she was good - still asleep, but good. Her, uh, heart rate picked up when Jay talked to her and kissed her hand…. So I’d say she is going to be just fine.” I smile remembering what had happened, and Liam laughs.

“Yea that’s normal alright. God, I don’t know what I would have done if we lost her. You guys are all I have - my family.” Liam started to choke up. I went and wrapped my arms around his waist, burying my face in his shoulder.

“You’re our family too. Believe it or not, we love you too.” My voice is muffled because of its spot on his shoulder. “If…. - and it’s a big if - we would have dealt with it together.”

Liam goes in when Jude comes out. Jude looks more relaxed now that he knows she is safe. “I’m going to go home… take a shower. You guys need anything?”

I shake my head at him but stop when Dan gets up. I start to panic.

“I’m sorry. I’ve got to go home and get some sleep and take a shower. Grace has an appointment in a few hours,” Dan notices my face and he rushes on. “Toby will be here and I will be back as soon as I can. I’m sorry.” he kisses my head then leaves with Jude.

“Please don’t leave me too.” I turn to Toby, my panic now directed his way. Toby grabs my face in his hands.

“Never. You’re stuck with me.” he says softly, making me cry.

“I miss him, Toby…” I break into sobs. I let Toby pull me closer. I’ve never really grieved for my brother. I helped my dad and Dan get through theirs, even though Dan likes to think that I never saw him. Toby holds me while I cry, whispering soothing words to me that I don’t really hear. I just wish for the pain to stop. I don’t want to feel like this anymore - always missing him. I want to go back 5 years ago and make him stay with me, but I can’t. “It hurts so much.”

“It’s okay, Love. I got you. I love you, Abbi.” Is the last thing I hear before I fall asleep.

Chapter 7

“She never grieved for him. After 5 years, she kept it all blocked up.” a familiar voice says. Then the voice turns angry. “Shit! I knew by the look on her face that I should have never left.”

“D, you didn’t know that she was going to have a break down….” I know that name. Jude calls Dan that.

“That’s the point, I should have. The car accident, the hospital, and the waiting. It was all too much for her.” Dan says, and I have no idea what he is talking about. My head is resting on something, but I don’t know what. I turn my head and his scent envelops me. My head must be on Toby’s lap. I snuggle into him while the events of last night come rushing back. Lib got hit by a car, waiting to see if she was alive, then seeing her, Dan leaving, My confession to Toby…..

“Love? Are you awake?” Toby’s voice breaks through my thoughts. I open my eyes and sit up. My eyes lock with Toby’s.

“I’m so sorry.” I whisper to him. He is shaking his head, making my stomach fall. He is going to leave me….. Again. My eyes start to water, but I don’t make a move to wipe them. I can only stare into his eyes, hoping that I’m wrong.

“Why are you sorry, Ab? You finally let down your walls.” Dan says, but I don’t answer him. I can’t. I keep waiting for Toby to get up, to tell me he has had enough.

“You’re going to leave me now, aren’t you?” My voice was barely a whisper. I watch as Toby’s expression turns from concerned, to shocked, to understanding.

“Why do you keep thinking I’m leaving? I told you, I’m here to stay.” he whispers back.

“Because you stayed in my life for 17 years, then when things got hard - when I needed you - you left. Not me, you. I’m scared that my life - that I - am too much for you. I get jealous for no reason, I have a hard time letting people in…. I am scared that one day you will wake up and realize that you’re better off without me, and I will never recover from that. I barely made it through the years when you last left.” I feel Jude and Dan’s eyes on me, but I don’t stop. I keep my eyes on Toby. “I love that you’re here, but I can’t help but feel it won’t last.” I turn to look at my brother. “I never grieved for Andy because you and dad needed me.”

“I get that you’re mad and hurt that I left, and I could never tell you how sorry I am. And you’re right, this will be hard at times, but I want - need to make this work. I want what’s best for you and sometimes I will believe that you are better off without me, but I will never leave you again. Wanna know why? Because I am selfish. I need you in my life. I tried to do what I thought was better for you 5 years ago, and it killed me every day. I’d rather be with you for one day than a lifetime without you.” Toby takes my face in his hands. “I’m in love with Abbi. I always have been.”

I bring his face down to mine, my lips brushing against his as I talk. “I’m so in love with you.” I kiss him with everything I have. I pour my love into this kiss. I hear my brother and Jude growl, making me smile against Toby’s lips. When we pull apart I see Jay standing by the door. He has a smile on his face, but when he locks eyes with me, it gets bigger. I can tell that he is happy for me, but there is something else that has him this happy. Suddenly it hits me, Libby is awake. I jump up and run into his arms.

“Is she awake?”

“Yes. She is asking for you.” he sets me down, laughing. I’m so happy to see him like this again. I walk to the room alone, and as soon as I get to her door, I push open the door. I see her sitting up in her bed, with her left leg in a cast. She looks like crap, but she is alive and awake. My eyes start to match her eyes - they tear up. I run to her and pull her into a hug.

“Don’t you ever do that again.” I say through my sobs, making her laugh a little.

“I’m sorry. I’ll try not to get squashed between two cars… ever again.” She giggles, and I soon follow. Soon we are both laughing so hard that we are shedding new tears. When the laughing and tears subside, Lib shoves her hand in my face. I see the ring that Jay showed us is now on her finger. She said yes!

“Oh my god. Finally.” I smile at her, taking her hand to get a better look at her ring.

“We want it to be in April. I know it’s so close, but I don’t want to wait any longer. Would you please be my maid of honor? I could never do this without you.” She looks hopeful. I look at her and my smile can’t get any bigger.

“Yes! I’d love to.” I hug her once more. “I’m so happy for you, Lib.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

~ “Andy……… please, don’t.” I back away from my brother. He is wearing his million dollar smile, and holding 3 balloons filled with pudding.

“Come on Ab. It won’t be that messy.” he says, smiling wider. I get grabbed from behind as Toby holds me. My bare back against his bare chest. We are down by the lake and all in our swim suits. I try to fight Toby, but 16 year old me is no match for 18 year old him.

“Just do it already.” Dan comes up from behind Toby and pops balloon on the top of my head. Chocolate pudding starts to drip down onto my face.

“Dan! I’m going to kill you.” I look at him and he starts laughing. Andy starts to throw the balloons at my stomach, and on the 3 one I duck. The pudding balloon hits Toby right in the face, making him let go of me in shock.

Everyone is quiet, looking at Toby, who is looking at me. His eyes snap to Andy - who is trying not to laugh at the pudding of Toby’s face - then he yells “What the hell, man.” Toby runs back to the house and the three of us break out into laughter. We were about to head back to the house - after 3 minutes of laughing - when Toby appears, holding the hoes. He shoots it at all of us when we take of in different directions. I don’t look back to see where he is, I head straight to my tree. This tree is my favorite. I read and write under it all the time - even just sit out here and look at the lake. It’s only when I am safely behind my tree, when I look behind me. No one. I slump down against my tree. I look out at the dock and smile. So many memories on that dock. Out of nowhere, I feel a cold spray run down my side.

“Toby!” ~

I wake up to Jude snoring loudly. I remember coming home, and Dan making Toby sleep on the other couch. Jude ended up coming in my room with me half way through the night. Sometimes I just needed my best friend - at all times. We stayed up talking about nothing and everything, until we fell asleep. I grab a pillow and smack him, but he only grabs the pillow and rolls onto it. Rolling my eyes, I get up and hunt for some coffee. I found some coffee already made with a note attached. I pick up the note and read it while I read the note.

~Come sit with me, love~

I look in the living room, and Dan is sleeping with one leg off the couch, but no Toby. I notice the balcony door is open, making me smile. I slowly make my way to the glass doors. When I step outside, my face lights up, taking in the view. Toby is shirtless and sitting in the lawn chair, looking out at the city.

“Morning, baby.” Toby says, not turning to look at me. I walk over to him and sit on his lap.

“Good morning.” I mutter on his lips. I kiss him for a few minutes, and when we break away, I look out at the city. “My god…. It’s beautiful.”

“Yea, it is.” Toby whispers but when I look at him, he is not looking at the view. He is looking at me. The look he is giving me makes me blush. “I wish we had some more alone time.”

“I know…” I sigh when his lips move to my neck. He is right, the only time we are alone is at night. I am at school and he is working, or we are with the boys and Lib, or Dan. Toby slowly brings his lips back to mine. When our lips touch, I melt into his touch. One of his hands moves from my waist to the inside of my left thigh, while the other moves to my lower back. I move my hands up his bare chest, around his neck and into his bed hair. I start to kiss him harder when someone clears their throat. Toby and I break apart - but I stay on him - and turn to look at Dan. He looks like he might throw up right now. “We didn’t-”

“I know, but please close the door next time. I would like to be woken up by cool things, not the sound of y’all making out. Don’t worry, I’m cool with you guys, but I could have went my whole life without seeing that.” Danny mumbles, sitting down on at the table.

“Sure, Dan.” I roll my eyes at my big brother. “So…… you know, with the wedding in 6 months, we need to hurry up with the planning.” I look between Toby and Dan.

“We?” They both ask.

“Yes. Everybody. Now I was thinking that maybe the 5 of you could go and get some suits, while Lib and I pick out food and decorations?” I look at Dan, knowing he is going to be the hardest to get to do anything.

“Fine.” he sighs after a few minutes, making me clap my hands. “I guess girls need to do the decorations and shit…”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Ohhhh. I like this one.” Lib says. She has been saying that for the last hour, not that I blame her, all the flower arrangements are beautiful. The doctors came in an hour ago and told her that if she kept up the ‘no pain’, than she will be able to go home tomorrow morning.

“Ugh, I know. Why does there have to be so many?” I exclaim. I pull out my phone to take yet another picture. My dad kept all my mom’s bridal magazines for me. I got them down from my closet and brought them with me. I also have some of Jenny’s and she gave me her planner. She also made me promise to send her a picture of the things we like - which is almost everything.

“I can’t choose, Ab. Can’t we just use all of them?” she jokes, but there is a little part of her that means it.

“I wish.” I sigh, dialing Jenny. We need help.

“Hello, girls. They all look amazing.” Jenny says when she picks up on the second ring.

“That’s the problem. I can’t pick one.” Lib groans, making Jenny laugh.

“Oh my dear. That’s planning a wedding for ya. You just have to picture your wedding. What does it look like? What colors do you have? What flowers? Forget the magazines, forget everything. Close your eyes and look. What do you see?” Lib gets quiet for a moment, thinking to her dream wedding.

“Roses. I see rose petals scattered along the aisle and some in arch. I’m holding a bouquet of purple Calla Lilies.” Libby smiles at the thought of her dream wedding. “They are twinkling lights everywhere.”

“Beautiful Libby. I can’t wait for this wedding, it’s going to be amazing. Do you girls want lunch? I could drop by with some.” Jenny asks, I look at Lib who is nodding her head.

“Yes, thanks Jenny. See you in a bit, love you.”

“Love ya too, dear.” Jenny signs off. I notice I have a text from Toby. I open it, but am not prepared for what I see. The text is a picture of the 5 boys dressed in their tuxes. I laugh out loud at the look on Dan’s face. The look so cute! Lib looks up from her magazine.

“What?”

“Nothing. You’ll see soon enough.” I smile at her as I text him back.

*Y’all look so handsome.*

*Good to know, love. I miss you - His text makes me smile.*

*You saw me 3 hours ago…*

*I missed you the second your body left mine. You’re my life. I love you, baby.*

*I love you too. So much.*

Chapter 8

Libby got home 3 days ago. She is not happy that she has to walk around in crutches for another week, but once she booked our dress fittings, she was over the moon. My dress fitting, along with Lib’s sister, and Grace, was next week - the day after graduation. And Lib’s was in two days. Jude and I decided to go the club with Lib, Liam and Jay. Toby was meeting with some guys that helped him over those 5 years. I needed to get back to normal, forget the accident and everything. I get out of Jay’s car - Jay and Libby picked up Jude and I. Jay was not drinking so we had a ride home. - When Liam come running out of nowhere.

“Hey, babe.” Liam picks me up without even stopping.

“Put me down Liam. This is not funny.” I scream, but he just laughs. He runs between his car and Jay’s. He puts me on the hood of his car and runs away.

“See you in there, babe.” he yells over his shoulder. Jay and Jude follow him inside, laughing along with him. Libby stays with me. Damn, him. He knows I hate it when he calls me babe…. I feel like that pig. Ewe.

“I’m going to kill him.” I say before walking into the club. Libby walks over to where Jay and Jude are now at a table, and I search for Liam. I look around and finally I spot him - with a girl. Ha! I walk over to them, the girl locks eyes with me. She gives me her best ‘get the hell away’ face, only making me smile. His back is to me some he does not see me coming. I stop right behind him and whack him on the side of the head.

“What the f-” he stops short when he sees me. His frown turns into a grin. “Hey babe.”

“Liam…. I’m going to kill you.” I point my finger into his chest.

“Me? What did I ever do to you?”

“You just have to get on my nerves tonight, eh?”

“Yes, I do. You’re too worried right now. Toby told me to get you to let go tonight…. Have fun” he smiles down at me. What?

“Huh? He told you that?”

“Yes….. Now go have fun!” he lightly pushes me away, towards our group. Smiling, I walk over to them.

“Hey!” Libby says when she sees me. “I thought you were going to kill him.”

I look behind me to where Liam and that girl are still standing. His eyes meet mine, and he winks at me. Shaking my head, I turn back to Lib. “Nope. I’m good.” I grab Jay’s beer and down half of it.

“Wow… go easy, Ab.” Jude says, and Jay looks at me with a protective look on his face. I want to roll my eyes at that look, but manage not to.

“Chill, Jude. She is having fun…” Lib pipes up.

“Yea, Jude…. Fun.” I tip the beer at him then down the rest. I go for Jude’s beer, but he gets it before I do. Jay gets up, probably to get more drinks.

“Did you hear that Mr.McHottie is expecting a child?” Libby says to me, pulling my attention back to her. She always calls our English prof Mr.McHottie, and every time I roll my eyes. She is a little bit drunk already…. She had 3 shots before we left - while I only had one.

“No. I don’t need to know shit like that.”

“Yea. Well there is also the fact that Brad is also expecting…. Jezz you missed out. I’m sure Toby will make good babies too.” she giggle, but I just looked at her. Jay arrives with more beer and a shot. I take the shot and a big gulp of the beer.

“He’s what?! With whom?” I ask, hoping the alcohol works fast. Brad was my last boyfriend. He was the longest one I had in four years. We dated for almost a year and been broken up for almost two. We both broke it off because things we getting complicated. He started to have feelings but I did not have the same. We both care for each other still and are friends. He once told me he never wanted children… in fear he would be like his father. Libby won’t answer me - I guess she realized what she had said - so I turn to Jay.

“With his - um - with Emma.” Jay says.

What?! Emma!

“His step-sister?!” I look at Jay, Jude, and then Libb in hopes that I heard him wrong. When they all give me that same look - the look of sorry - I realize it’s true. “I’ll be right back.” I stomp pass Jude towards the door. I am almost out the door when a hand grips my arm. I turn around to see Liam.

“Where are you going?”

“I need some air…. Leave me alone please.” he reluctantly lets me go. “I’ll be right back.” I toss over my shoulder. Once I’m outside, I gulp for air. Pulling out my phone, I scroll through the contacts. Once I find his number, I put my phone to my ear, and pray that this is not a mistake.

“Hello…… Abbi?” His strong voice comes through my phone.

“Emma. Really B?” I say once I once again find my voice.

“Ab, you weren’t supposed to hear about that.” he blows out his breath.

“Yea, well Libby has a big mouth when she is drunk.” I wait a few seconds before asking. “Are you okay B?”

“What do you want me to do? I’m not going to be like my father, you know that.” he spits out the word ‘father’.

“I’m not saying you should leave your child, B. I just…. Are you happy, with your life… with her?”

“No.” he whispers.

“Well then you need to change it. Make sure your life is what you want, after all it is your life.” I say.

“Wow. When did you get so smart?” he asks, mocking my tone.

“Ha. Ha. I was always smart. Anyway, I just want to help you anyway I can.”

“I know, thank you. Look, I have to go, but would you…. I don’t know. Would you like to get coffee sometime? As friends?”

“Um. Yea, I’d like that.” I reply smiling. After hanging up, I stay outside for a while. The two beers and shot is starting to get to me. My mood feels better already, and I am ready to do what Toby made sure I would do. Have fun.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

2 beers, 3 shots, and a sex on the beach later, and I am in happy land. I’m dancing with Liam and laughing at an angry Lib. Jay told her that she is not allowed to even try to dance over an hour ago - and she is still fuming.

“I have to pee!” I shout in Liam’s ear.

“Okay…. Want me to walk you?” he shouts back. I pull back so he can see me, and tap my nose with each finger. That makes him rumble with laughter.

“I’m good. Be right back, sweets.” I walk to the bathroom, leaving Liam behind.

Sweets?

Really?

Could I be more drunk?

Oh, shit. I get to the bathroom and there is a big line. I get behind a girl who is wearing shorts that could pass as panties, and a top that barely covers her boobs. I pull out my phone and dial his number.

“Are you okay?” the sound of his voice makes me giggle.

“I love your voice. Did you know that?” I giggle into the phone, and I hear him sigh.

“I know you’re dunk. Where are the boys and Libby?”

“Well you told Liam to make sure I have fun… I’m just following orders.” I slur.

“Yea, well. I think it’s time for you to come home. Where’s Jay and Jude?”

“Libby is pissed at Jay because he won’t let her dance, so they are at the table. Probably with Jude, but I don’t care. He did not tell me about B, so I am mad. I thought best friends tell you everything. I get that friends keep some things from you. But best friends?” I rush out, suddenly very mad and sad all at once.

“Who’s B? Go pass Jay the phone… he is the only sober one I’m guessing.” he says.

“No! I don’t want to go over there because then Jude will want to talk. He lied to me…” I scream into the phone.

“Okay… go back to Liam. I’ll meet you in 10 minutes, and I’ll take you home.” he calmly says. I’ve got to give him points. I am acting like a child right now.

“No…. I don’t want to go home.” I hang up on him. Not wanting to wait in line anymore I walk towards the front door. I see Liam as I am on my way out - again with the girl from earlier. I know where I need to go, but how do I get out of here? I look back at Liam, who now has his phone up to his ear, making my stomach drop.

No…..

He wouldn’t.

Liam looks around the dancefloor, and I know he did. Toby called Liam. A few seconds goes by, I know I should move so I could leave but I can’t, his eyes meet mine. Liam motions for me to come over, so I slowly make my way to him. The girl looks like she has better things to do, and right now, I wish she did.

“What?!” I snap at him.

“Wanna tell me why you called Brad?” he asks, making no move to hang up - or even lower - the phone, or dismiss the girl.

“Y’all told me something, and I wanted to make sure he was okay.” I shrug a shoulder like it’s no big deal.

“Okay… well you’re way past drunk and you will hate me in the morning. So who is going to drive you have Jay or Toby?”

“No one. I’ll walk.” I could hear Toby yelling from where I am standing. “Tell him that I will be fine. I’m going to see Andy.”

“Wait now… Ab that’s not safe.” Liam says.

“Whatever Liam. I’ll see you tomorrow.” I walk away. I pull out my phone and call a cab, once I am outside. The cab arrives in a matter of minutes, and as it pulls away - with me in it - Jay is out the door, watching the cab pull away. “To Richmond hill graveyard, please.”

The ride is faster than normal. It felt like a 10 minute drive not a 45 minute drive. I pay the drive $50, and step out. I walk over to where my brother lays - 6 feet under - and sit in front of him. No one knows that I come here as much as I do. Everyone thinks I only come here twice a year - his birthday and the day he died. In reality I come here at least once every two weeks.

“Hey big bro. I miss ya like crazy.” I place a hand over the spot where he is laying. “God. My life is a mess right now. More than usual. Toby is back home, and with me. He loves me Andy, all this time, I thought I was nothing but a little sister to him. And you knew! Or hoped, for whatever. You could have told me. Anyway, Brad is dating his step-sister, and they’re having a baby together. I know I shouldn’t care, but I do. I know he is not happy and it hurts me, I want nothing more than for him to be happy, you know?” I let my tears fall down my face, not bothering to wipe them away. “I just want to wake up and find out that the last 5 years was a dream. I want you to come home, pick me up in your arms and tell me everything is going to be okay…. But that’s not going to happen.” I hold my hands to my face and cry into them. “I wish I woke up and told you to stay. Why did you have to leave? I need you.” I lay on the ground and place my head where his shoulder would be. “Please come back. Come home.”

I feel a hand on my lower back. “Love, I’m sorry.”

“I miss him, Toby. Why did he have to die and not that idiot who was driving while drunk? What did he ever do?”

“I don’t know.” is all Toby said. He rubbed his hand up and down my back while I cried.

“He was going to help me with my 18th birthday. We were all going to go to Paris, the summer after I graduated, remember. He did not get to see me graduate high school. He will not be there when I graduate college, or my wedding, or meet my children. He use to always tease me about how he will teach my children how to annoy me. He was going to be an amazing uncle, now he won’t even have a chance. We talked about my wedding, which he will not be attending.” I cry into the ground. “We had plans….”

“I know, love.” he sooths. I just lay on the ground - wishing I was laying on my brother, not the dirt. After a few minutes, my crying seems to subside, and I feel myself being lifted up.

“Wait.” I sniffle. “I need to say good-bye.” when my feet hit the ground, I drop in front of my brother. “I love you to the moon and back. I will be back next week.” I kiss his headstone, then walk over to Toby. I let him pick me back up and we walk to his car. When he puts me in the car, I curl into a ball. I place my feet on the seat, and my head in my folded arms. The ride is silent, even my cries. I keep thinking about all the plans we had made - the big ones and small - but they make me cry harder. Why did you have to take him?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I feel cold, so I snuggle into the warmth beside me. I feel a hand on my back, I groan at the memory of tonight’s events. With my drunken high gone, I feel like an emotional child. I open my eyes to find Toby watching me.

“Hey. We just got back, you feel asleep half way home.” he says. I look at him, he looks tired.

“Oh.” Is all I can say. What do you say to someone who has seen you at your worst? Who had to pull you away from your brother’s grave? God, I drunk dialed him, and yelled at him…. In front of Liam.

Ugh.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“There is not much to talk about. I go to see him every two weeks, and whenever I need him. I love Dan, but we all know that Andy was a better listener, and easier to talk to. I just hit me - so close to my graduation - that he would not be here.” I mumble.

“What about Brad?”

“What ’bout him?” My whole body becomes tense. Did I tell him about us?

“Why are you mad at Jude and who is he?” Toby says, from where he is sitting in the middle of our bed. I guess it’s our bed. Toby only goes home when necessary, otherwise he is here.

I sigh before answering him. I sit up, against my headboard. “Brad was my boyfriend almost 2 years ago. We dated for a year, and both ended it because…. We weren’t feeling it. We were in different places in life and wanted different things. We both cared for each other, but we never really in love. We promised to stay close, but never really saw each other. Last I saw him was 6 months ago, when I bumped into him. Lib was drunk - before me - and let it slip out that he was having a child, and I got worried. I called him to check on him, and we are having coffee - but that’s not the point. The point is I am mad because if Lib was not drunk and let it slip…. I would have never known. Jude is my best friend, and he never told me. That pissed me off. Of all people, you’re best friend tells you everything.”

“You dated him?”

“Yep.” not seeing why out of all that…. That was all he got.

“Okay…. Well you’re going to hurt so badly in the morning, so you need your rest.” he moves to his side of the bed, but I don’t move.

“Are you mad?”

“No. I get why you’re mad with Jude…. I would be too. I also get why you were worried about this guy if you dated him for a year. You say that you both were never in love, so nope. I’m good.” he pats the spot next to him, so I scoot over to him. I throw my leg between his and my arm over his stomach. I rest my head on the spot right over his heart. “Are you okay?”

“Yes.”

“Love….”

“Really. I’m fine. It just got to me that he will not be here for graduation next week. I just thought about him. I will every day, some more than others.”

“Okay. Get some sleep, love.”

~ Why? Why did I have to fall for him? Why did I trust him? I’m 17, you think I would know when boys are bad, right? I’m sitting behind my tree, balling my eyes out, because of some guy. I don’t want my brothers or Toby to know. They would kill him, it’s a good thing they are at college and not coming home this weekend.

“Come on, babe. Hurry.” I hear a girl giggle, making my head snap up. “Come and get me.” The girl sounds like she is close.

“Cassie! Don’t go near that tree.” Oh. My. God. Toby is here, and he brought a girl. Why? I look around the tree and the girl is standing on the other side of my tree. I hate it when random people - people who are not my brothers or Toby - touch my tree. My dad is not even allowed.

“Why? Maybe I could climb it and get stuck….. Then you would have to come save the day.”

“No! It’s not your tree….” he trails off. The sound of his voice getting closer. I need to get out of here, but how? If Toby sees me, he will know I’ve been crying. The boy could read me like a book. The girl - totally ignoring Toby - runs around the tree. That is when she spots me.

“Who are you?” she asks me, hands on her hips.

“Why were you touching my tree?” I ask, hoping my voice sounds strong, but ends up sounding shaky. Toby is soon by her side, and I place my hands over my face.

“Love…. What are - Are you crying?” his voice now laced with worry.

“No.”

“Bullshit. What’s wrong?” he is now in front of me, pulling my hands.

“Nothing. Why are you home?”

“This is your sister…. And her tree?”

“Yes. No one is allowed to touch it.” Is all he says to her, not looking back at her. His eyes stay on me. “Love, what’s wrong? Do I have to call Jude?”

“No!” I rush out, ignoring the pick-up in my heart rate when he calls me that….. Especially in front of his girlfriend. “Ethan cheated on me.”

“Who’s Ethan? And why are you dating?” he all but growls. I look up and meet his eyes.

“Ethan is my boyfriend.” I watch as he flinches. It was small - hard to notice - but I did. I notice everything about him. “And I can date. You and my brothers can’t chase off every guy that shows interest in me.”

“Well I can try. What’s Ethan’s last name?” he spits out Ethan’s name like he ate something bad.

“No, please. You’ll make it worse.” I beg, grabbing ahold of his arms.

“I won’t. I just need to talk to this kid.”

“No, please.” I begin to cry again, when he tries to get up. I hold onto him tighter. “Don’t leave me….”

“Cassie, can you go back to the hotel. I need some time with Ab.” he says, sitting down beside me. He pulls me into him, and I clutch onto him like he was the only thing holding me to earth.

“Sure….” she stayed a moment longer, than she left. I cried into Toby’s chest.

“I’m sorry. You weren’t supposed to see me - or be home. I ruined your date…” I sob, holding on to him, never wanting to let go.

“No. No, it was not a date. That was her trying to be more, and you never have to apologize to me.” he rubs my head while I cry.

“And you got mad when she touched my tree.” I whisper into his shirt.

“Well, I know you hate it when people do that. It’s yours only.” he whispers back. When I finish crying, I don’t pull back - neither does Toby. We stay like that, wrapped in each other, for what seems like forever. I could only hope.

“Toby? Please don’t tell my brothers. Can we keep this between us?” I look up at him, he is so close. Ever since my sweet 16, the have been lots of these moments, where he is so close. Other times when he touches me, he seems reluctant to let go, or he touches me for a beat longer than normal.

“Yea, love. Our little secret.” he whispers in my ear. ~

I bolt up in bed and run to the bathroom. I just make it to the toilet when it all comes out. I hear Toby behind me, he holds my hair while rubbing my back. Why did I drink so much?

“You’re okay. I got you. Let it all out.” he sooths. If I had not known him my whole life, I would not allow him in here. I would be so embarrassing, but this is Toby.

“Can you get me a glass of water?” I choke out, when I manage to get my head out of the toilet bowl. I feel like I am dying. I hold my hands over my mouth, knowing that my breath smells like death. Toby - who is laughing lightly - gets up and gets me a glass. I chug the glass when he passes it to me. He kisses my head and helps me up. I get halfway out the door when I feel my stomach turn. I turn around and drop to my knees.

It take 45 minutes before my stomach settles and we get back into bed. Lying in bed with my boyfriend, and having him rub my head, is the best medicine I could ask for.

Chapter 9

“Oh…. Libby. It’s perfect.” I wipe at my tears.

“Really? You think?” she turns around in her dress. It is pure white, with lace around the neck. This dress has a low neckline - perfect for Lib - and small white pearls around her waist. This dress is simple - not too much bling, - and it hugs all her curves perfectly. I’d say this is the dress.

“Yes…. but only you can decide if it is the dress for you.” I walk up behind her. “Do you see yourself walking down to Jay in this dress?”

“I do. I love it.” Lib starts to cry - happy tears. I could tell by the look on her face, that she is really happy. Not just with the dress, but everything. Since her parents could not make it down until graduation…. I am helping Libby with everything.

“Do you want to try the veil along with it?” The saleswoman asks, holding up the vail that Lib’s mother sent down.

“Yes.” Lib and I both say. We look at each other and laugh. Once the veil is on, Lib is now in full tears. “It’s perfect…. It’s just like I imagined.”

“Perfect dress, perfect wedding, and perfect guy for the perfect girl.” I say hugging Lib. “I have to go but I love you, and I’ll see you later.”

“I want details!” Lib yells at me when I walk out the store door. I wave at her through the window, then I head over to the coffee shop across the street. I glance at my watch, and I am late. Damn it. I walk into the shop and I look around for him. He is not here. He must be running late too, thank god. I walk and take a booth by the window, just as he comes in.

“Sorry, I’m late.” he rushes out, sitting across from me.

“No, it’s okay. I just got here myself.” I say. “I’ll grab the coffee. Same as always?”

“Yep. Thanks.” I nod. He looks like he is all over the place. The least I could do way get the guy his coffee. “Can I get a French Vanilla and a double, double.”

“That will be $3.50” the man says. I had him a 5.

“Thanks. Keep the change.” I walk over to the waiting area and take this opportunity to look at Brad. He is still tall - like 6 foot - with black hair, that is long enough to cover his eyes but not long enough to go past his jaw. Out of the corner of my eye I see our coffees, I grab them and head back to our table. “So…. how are things?”

“Honestly…. My mom is pissed but her father is even more. They both blame me, when it takes two. I did not want children… you know that, but now that it’s happening……” he trails off.

“I get it. Now that she is pregnant, you can’t help but want this child.” I smile at him. “I think you’ll be a perfect father, B”

“Really. You know what my father did.”

“Yes, but it’s because of him that you will be amazing. You will do everything in your power to be everything that your father was not. I know you, B. In no way, shape, or form are you your father.” I take a drink of my coffee, but he just stares into his cup. After several seconds, he brings the cup to his lips.

“I guess you’re right. I just wish it was not with her….. Seeing my mom so upset, so…… disappointed sucked. I hope I never see that look again.”

“That’s why you won’t. Remember that look….. And don’t sleep with Emma again” I reply with a sweet smile. My comment causes him to laugh - a full belly, deep laugh. We talk about everything. Dan becoming a father as well, Lib’s car accent, and Toby.

“He is perfect. Near the end I really thought I would see him again.” I am smiling wide at the thought of my boyfriend. “Not only does Toby represent my future, but so much of my past. I could be real with him, and not live in fear of acting a certain way. I could be myself…. And I love every bit of him.”

“I’m so happy for you, Ab. It sounds like your life is perfect.” he says smiling with me, but it almost seems forced.

“Well, it will be in 3 days….. I graduate then. I can wait to be free. Then I can work full time.”

“Yes, and work on your book.” he says.

“Yes… my book.” I look over at the clock on the wall, and jump up. “Oh shit. It’s been 3 hours.” I look down at Brad. “I’m sorry, but I have to go.”

“It’s okay. Let me walk you out.” he gets up, puts his hand on the small of my back, and leads me outside. Once we are outside, he does not move from me. Before I can react, his hands are on my face and lips on mine. I’m too stunned to do anything for a few moments, but then I push him back.

“What was that? B, you know I’m with….” I mutter.

“I know. I’m sorry. I just thought….. I don’t know.” he looks sorry, I can tell in his eyes.

“It’s okay, but that can never happen again. I care about you - deeply - but only as a friend.” I say.

“I know. I do too, I’m sorry.” he looks so sad. He looks down at the side walk. I walk up to him and hug him.

“I have to go, but I’ll talk to you later. It’s okay, B.” I kiss his cheek - like I do to all my guy friends - and walk away.

What the hell happened?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I get home, and find Jude on the couch, playing GTA. He is alone, so I figure that Toby is not home yet. I plop down next to my best friend, and lay my head on his shoulder.

“Bad day?” he asks, glancing down at me.

“Very, and weird….. B kissed me.” I state. Jude goes still, and throws his controller on the recliner.

“He what?” Jude turns to look at me. The movement makes me sit up straight, and look him in the eye. I tell him everything, I even mention that we talked about Toby. When I’m done, he is sitting facing me, holding my hands, his mouth ajar. “Wow.”

“Yea. Now I don’t know what to do…. I know Toby is going to be mad.” I look down at our hands.

“Then don’t tell him. Nothing happened, you did nothing wrong. What’s the point of telling him something that will make him mad, and want to kill Brad, when nothing happened? I mean….. If you want to tell him, go for it. It’s your relationship, but if it were me……” he trails off. Jude does have a point. Telling him will just make something small into a big fight. I love my best friend.

“I love you so much, Jude.” I hug him tight.

“It’s what I’m here for. Friends till death.” he vows, just like when we were teenagers. It’s sort of our thing. Jude kisses my forehead, then gets up to get his controller. When he sits back down, and resumes his game, I lay my head on his shoulder. I watch him play the game. This is my favorite time with him - quiet and laid back.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“What if I fall flat on my face?” I look Toby, sitting on our bed - I guess it’s ours. He is he all the time, not that I cared. I parasitically lived with him most of my life. I was in my black bra and panties, standing in my closet, looking for something to wear.

“That’s not going to happen.” he says calmly.

“Yea, right. You don’t- if you keep looking at me like that, then we will never get there. And in order to graduate…. I need to be there.” I place my hands on my hips.

“What do you want me to do?” he gets up and walks over to me. I let my hands drop to my sides, and Toby’s soon replace them. “I have a beautiful woman in front of me, and she is distracting.”

“I guess your girlfriend would not like you this close to any girl - especially one whom is almost naked.” I wrap my arms around his neck, pressing my chest into his.

“No, she wouldn’t. I guess it would have to be our little secret.” he brings his lips down to mine. I pull his face into mine, wanting more. Toby’s grip on my tightness but it’s over too fast. “I’ll leave you to get ready. Libby, Liam, and Jay will be here in 30.” he says as he pulls away. Without another word, he is gone.

“Fine.” I huffed to his back. I turn and take in my dresses. I don’t have many… I prefer pants, but Jenny and Lib made me buy some when we were shopping one day. I pick out a dress that comes to my knees and has a low, lacy neckline. I walk over to the jewelry box that was once owned by my mother, and pick up the bracket that I stopped wearing 4 years ago. It hurt too much to wear it, but now… it seems wrong without it.

~ “Hey love.” I look up to see Toby walking towards me. I am sitting against my tress, reading and watching the lake - as always.

“Hey, what’s up?” I ask as he sits down beside me.

“Not much. Everyone is looking for you, we’re leaving soon.” he looks down at the book in my lap.

“Yea, sorry. I got kind of distracted, and into my book…..” My words die when Toby places a small, blue box on top of my book.

“Happy sweet sixteen, Love.” he whispers. I look up at him in shock.

“Toby….. You didn’t need to.” I say, picking up the box for him to take it back, but he was not taking it. His strong hands are now covering mine.

“I wanted to. Please open it.” well, who can say no to those eyes. I open the box and gasp.

Oh my….

“Oh, Toby…. It’s beautiful.” I take out the silver charm bracelet. Beautiful is not even the right word to describe this gift. There is a tree, book, heart and a T.

“The heart is meant to represent your name - love, - and T for….” he trails off. Toby’s eyes are fixed on my face, I can feel his stare.

“The T stands for you. Oh, Toby. I love it.” I throw my hands around his neck. Toby wraps his arms around my waist, holding me to him. I pull back just enough for me to hand him the bracelet.

“Let’s go eat.” Toby says once it is on. I might have been dreaming - hopefully not - but his fingers lingered over my skin for a beat longer.

Yea…. I was dreaming.~

“Ready to leave that shit hole?” Lib calls out when I walk out of my room. She runs over to me and wraps me in a hug. She is wearing a red dress, with a low neckline, and a piece of black lace wraps around the dress just under her boobs. She looks very nice, I could never pull of a dress like that.

“Hell yea, I am.” I pull away from Lib and instantly swept into another hug from Liam. I slap away Liam’s playful hand that goes straight for my boobs when we pull apart.

“Hey! Only playing.” He winks at me, making me roll my eyes. I walk over and hug Jay, who kisses my cheek. I then skip over to Jude - who is leaning against the island - and hug him hard. He is dressed like the other guys - in a nice top and black dress pants.

“We made it, Jude!” I kiss him on the cheek, and burry my face in his chest. “I love you.”

“Awe. I love you too, Ab. Best friends till death.” he holds me closer.

“Best friends till death.” I repeat. I snuggle into him for a few more moments then pull away. I glance over at Toby, who is beside Jude, and I know from the look on his face that he sees the bracelet. Pure shock.

“You kept it?” he picks up my wrist and plays with the charms.

“You gave it to me…. Of course I kept it. I will always wear it.” I kiss him lightly.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Congratulations graduating class of 2015. KLC wishes you best of luck, and a safe life.” Mr. Knox - Mr.McHottie - yells. We all jump up and throw our caps into the air. I turn to Jude and hung him, then I am being picked up and swung around. Liam sets me down, laughing in my ear.

“We did it, babe.” Liam says in a sing song voice, which is hard not to laugh at. As I am laughing, Lib and Jay come at me, squishing me between them. I wrap my arms around them, and cheer. Soon Liam and Jude join in, and we are in one big hug together.

“I love you guys so much” I say to them.

“We love you too, Ab.” Liam says.

“It’s the 5 of us, together forever.” Jay says, nodding at everyone.

“No matter what” Lib agrees. We all repeat her words. When we pull away, I watch as they all cheer and talk together. In this moment, I know. I know that I have amazing friends who I love and would do anything for. I could not - did not - want to imagine what would have happened if we did lose Lib.

I look up at the sky and I picture my brother’s face. I hope that he is watching down on me. I hope he can see that everything is okay, and that I am happy - we all are. “I did it big bro. I did it for you.” I whisper into the air. I look around until I find the pair of eyes that I love. The pair of eyes that I dreamt about for the past 21 years of my life. When I spot him, he is wearing a big smile. I run up to him and jump into his arms. I wrap my legs around him, and my arms around his neck, while his go to my waist. Toby holds me to him.

“You did it!” he exclaims between kisses, as he spins me around. I get lost in his kisses, and my fingers find their way into his hair.

“Let’s go back to your place and celebrate.” Lib says, wiggling her eyebrows. I laugh as I hop down from Toby’s body and grab his hand.

“Yea. I’ll invite Dan and Grace as well.” I grab ahold of Jude’s hand in my free one and walk towards my truck. I needed every little piece of Andy here with me today. “See you guys there.” I call over my shoulder. As we get closer to my truck, I see him standing there in his blue jeans and a black top.

“B! What are you doing here?” I let go of Toby and Jude’s hands so I could hug Brad.

“Well when you mentioned that you were graduating today… I had to come. I missed the ceremony, but I’m here now. I just wanted to say congrats.” he says, hugging me back. When he pulls away, he looks up at Jude. “Hey Jude.”

“Hey. How’s Emma?” Jude asks him. I watch as B flinches, and I shoot my best friend a warning glare. Jude looks at me with raised eyebrows.

“She’s, um. She is good.” Brad replies, then he turns to Toby, who is looking at me. I felt his eyes on me the whole time. I look up and meet his glare. I smile, letting him know that everything is okay. “Hi, I’m Brad.”

“Toby.” he says. I could tell by his voice that he is getting a little possessive. I walk over to him and place my hand on his upper arm.

“Ah. Ab has told me so much about you.” Brad looks at me, sadness fills his eyes. “Well, I can see that you guys were heading somewhere. I just wanted to tell you that I was happy for you. Congrats.” he walks away without another word. Toby leans down and kisses me. I melt into his body, urging him on.

“Come on, lovebirds. Let’s go.” Jude says, climbing into the car. I pull back smiling so wide. When Toby helps me into my truck, I notice that B is standing by his car, watching us.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

~ “She what?!” I hear the sound of my brother’s angry voice. I squeeze my eyes shut tighter, not wanting to get up yet. I am never drinking like that again, my head kills.

“Calm down, Dan. She is just a teenager. It was bound to happen sometime, at least she waited until she was 17, and she called Toby.” My other brother’s soft, calm voice fills the air. Andy is always the brother that is more understanding, and a great listener. Where they were both protective, Dan was over the top. He never wanted me to experience life. I know he loves me and is just looking out for me, but it starts most of our fights. Neither of them want me to date or have sex till I’m, like 30. So that’s why only my best friend - Jude - knows about prom and Ethan. Then again, Toby knows about Ethan too.

“Yea, but….” Dan trails off. He knows that he is not going to win this.

“But nothing. She knows we drink - hell she has seen and dealt with it. I’m so damn happy that she was responsible and knew to call Toby. She didn’t drive, or get in a car with someone who was drunk, and she sure as hell did not sleep with anyone.” Andy says.

“Can y’all talk more quietly…? And turn off the light?” I ask them, my voice barely above a whisper. I have no idea how they heard me, but the light was soon turned off. I slowly sit up and open my eyes, and I know how they heard me. I am laying in Toby’s bed - in nothing but a long shirt, bra and panties - with Toby right beside me. I look down at the shirt and I notice that it is one of Toby’s. My personal favorite one too.

“Here take these and drink this.” Toby hands me some pain relief and water.

“Thanks.” I mutter, popping the pills in my mouth, then downing them with the much needed water. My own voice sounds too loud in my ears. “I’m fine. I was tough to never drink and drive. Y’all did good.”

“Like I said… you called Toby, so it’s good.” Andy says softly.

“Do you remember what happened?” Toby’s breath is hot on my neck. Ever since my sixteenth birthday, things have been good with Toby. All the things I felt for him were now heightened, and I know he feels it too. I do remember what happened last night, but I will never admit that.

“No, why?”

“Just wondering. You can stay here until you feel better.” Toby offers. Should I stay in his apartment with him… all by ourselves? He lives in a dorm with my brothers a few doors down. Toby wanted to dorm by himself.

“Yea. I think that is best, we don’t want dad to see you like that.” Dan says.

“I’m 17.”

“Yes, but in his eyes you are still his baby girl.” Andy says quoting our father’s name for me.

“Fine, but I want Ice cream. I turn to Toby.

“I have cookie dough.” he smiles. I love cookie dough anything. I smile back at him, and my brother’s leave, leaving Toby and I alone to watch movies. I can’t help but notice how he seems to snuggle closer than normal, or how he would ‘accidentally’ brush up against me. I just want nothing more for him to grab me and kiss me. ~

“The party can now start. I have arrived.” My brother yells when my door bursts open. Behind him is Grace, with her growing baby bump. The boys hold up their beers and holler at him. Dan walks over to me and Toby - standing in the kitchen - and picks me up. “My little sister is all done with school! You made it.”

“Hey, Dan.” I laugh as he sets me down.

“Good job too you too, Jude. You’ve grown into a good little shit. And you three, congrats”

“Thanks, D. I love you too.” Jude sings, throwing an empty beer can at Dan. I’ve already had two beers and half of Jude’s. I’m all bent up on B coming to my graduation. I know we agreed to still be friends, but…. I don’t know. I’m so glad I told my best friend, otherwise I’d be dying. Jude helped me realize there was no point in telling Toby, when nothing happened - and it will never happen again, but I hate lying to Toby. Toby and Dan join the rest of the boys, and Lib joins Grace and me.

“How are you feeling?” I ask Grace.

“Good, sucks that I can’t drink though.” she rubs her stomach. I immediately go to put down my drink, but stop when Grace’s hand is on my wrist. “Oh, no. Don’t stop your drinking, it’s fine.”

“Okay…” I say, still unsure.

“Well weather it was fine with you or not, I was - is - not going to stop.” Lib says with a hug smile. Grace and I laugh at her honesty.

“Let’s play drink quest!” Liam announces. Lib, Grace, and I make our way to the boys. Jay and Lib are on one side of the couch, with Dan and Grace on the other side. Liam and Jude are on the loveseat, while Toby and I are curled up on the recliner.

“How do you play?” Grace says making us all laugh.

“Okay. You usually play with food, but we will use drinks. No one is allowed to drink until they answer a question. We will go around in a circle, I’ll start.” Jude says, he points to Toby. “Oh wait, and anything is allowed. Toby, is it true that the charm bracelet you gave Ab cost a whole summer’s paycheck?”

Toby looks down at me. “Yes. The whole summer and two months.” he answers, making the girls gasp and awe, and the boys wince.

“Ouch.” Liam says.

“It was worth it.” he softly kisses me.

“Get a room!” Dan, Liam, and Jude yell when Toby and I press our lips together. When we break apart, Toby turns to Dan, with his beer now in his hand. “Did you or did you not cut off Ab’s hair when she was 7?”

I snap my head over to my brother, who is looking at Toby like he might kill him. “You did that? I loved my hair!”

“Sorry, but I can’t take all the blame for that. Andy planned it, I just did it.” He holds his hands in the air.

“What?! No way!” I screech, making Toby, Jude and Dan laugh. I was told that I slept walked and cut my hair myself….. I believed them.

“Yep.” Dan takes a drink of his beer. “Okay, Ab. Where did you really go the night of your prom?”

I could feel all eyes on me. Crap. I look at Jude then back to Dan. “How do you know I was not with Jude?” I was not with Jude. I was with Ethan. I’ve been dating him for 2 months and we went to prom together. I told him I would meet him at the dance because of my brothers. He told me that he got us a hotel room….. Well three weeks later I found out he cheated on me.

“You started acting different after…… and Jude had a hot date.”

I roll my eyes. “Fine. I lied. I had a date and we left halfway through….”

“What?!” Both Dan and Toby yell.

“It’s not like I was going to tell you guys that…. I was 17.” I say to them both.

“So you….. When you were 17?” Toby asks, looking between Jude and me.

“Sorry, but it’s not your turn.” I down the rest of my beer. “Jay, what was the thing about Lib that made you fall for her?”

“That’s easy.” he answers, looking at the love of his life. “Her heart. I know she acts tough, but she has a heart of gold.”

“That’s so cute, Jay.” Grace says.

“I know.” Jay winks at Grace. “Ab, is it true that you and Lib kissed when you guys were drunk?”

I flush red, but then laugh it off. Why do they bring up these things? “Yes, you know that… you were there.” I answer him. I take Toby’s beer and take a sip.

“It was fun, but never again.” Lib giggles.

“Yes, never. I mean I’m sure she is good for you Jay, but….” I shrug my shoulders. “Anyway, Grace what do your parents say about the baby?”

“Well it’s only my mom and I, and I think she understands. I mean, we’re young, but at least we are not teenagers.” Grace says, she and Dan are snuggled together on the couch.

“I’m sorry… about your dad.” I say.

“It’s okay. It was a long time ago.” She says. “Libby, what was the worst thing you did in high school?”

“When I slept with my sister’s boyfriend. I will never forgive myself for that, drunk or not. It was wrong.” Libby pours a shot and downs it. “Ab, how did your coffee go?”

Why do people always pick me in this game? “It was fine, we are friends.” I say, hoping that everyone believes me. I feel Toby tense beside me, so I put my hand on his tight and look up at him from under my lashes. “Baby…. What is your favorite memory?”

“It was when you were 17, and you called me to pick you up from a party - you were drunk. When we were in the car, you told me you loved me. I was going to say it back, but you kissed me then passed out.”

“I remember that…. She woke up the next day, and did not remember a thing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you so sad.” Dan says laughing.

“But I did remember. I was too embarrassed to say anything.” I look up at Toby, and he looks down at me. I don’t know how long we stare at each other, but it feels like forever. It feels like time has stopped, and it’s only me and him in this room. He is all I saw, because we both know. We know that in that moment, everything had changed for the both of us… we just didn’t know it at the time. We start to play again, until all the beer is gone, and everyone is drunk…. Or at least I am.

“Wow… It’s 4:30am, already.” Dan says. Grace had left about 2 hours ago, when she started to fall asleep. Jude had told them that they can stay in his room. Jude will be sleeping on the loveseat, while Liam sleeps on the other couch. Lib and Jay are sleeping on the blowup mattress. Half way through the night everyone thought it would be best if they stayed the night.

“Yep. I think it’s time for bed, love.” Toby pulls me off of him, and towards my door.

“Good night!” I yell a little too loud, making a sleepy Lib cringe. Yep…. I’m drunk.

“Have fun.” Liam calls back, followed by the sound of him being smacked. I giggle as Toby brings me to the room. I get barely two, feet through the door, before my back is against it. His lips crash into mine, but instead of feeling safe and happy, I feel bad and dirty. I kiss him back, trying to shove my feelings aside, but all that comes flooding back when his hand moves to my stomach.

“Toby….” I whisper, pushing him away, putting a few feet of distance between us. I thought the space is what I needed, but I was wrong. It’s making me feel uncomfortable, and small. Toby looks at me through his hooded eyes, and takes a step towards me. “Brad kissed me.” I blurt out, before I even know what’s happening. My words make him come to a dead stop.

“What?” His voice is cold and hard. I swallow, before repeating myself, a little louder.

“Brad -”

“I know what you said! Why?” he yells, making me flinch. When he sees what I did, his eyes soften…. Only a little.

“I’m sorry, Toby. I didn’t mean for it to happen. I didn’t even kiss him back…..” I trail off. A second ago I didn’t want his hands on me, but now….. I want - need - them on me. I need to know that everything so okay - even when I know it’s not. “I’m sorry.”

“Why did you wait 3 damn days to tell me, Ab.?” I flinch at the use of my name. He almost never calls me my real name. “I thought we promised no more secrets.” Toby shakes his head and grabs his phone from his end table. When he walks up to me, he tries to brush past me, but I don’t let him.

“You promised you were done leaving.” I try to keep my voice steady, but failed. I feel my eyes fill up with unleashed tears. I will not cry in front of him… I will not look like a child.

“Yea, well you promised no lies. So, I guess we’re both screwed.” Toby picks me up and sits me on the bed. I can’t stop the tears that are now flowing down my cheeks, as I watch him walk away….. Again. I hear him say something to our friends in the living room, then the front door slams shut. That is when the dam breaks. I curl into a ball at the end of the bed and cry. A moment later I feel the bed dip, but I don’t bother to look up.

“He left me…” I sob. When I feel a hand on my wet cheek, I look up. Lib is crushed in front of me, with Dan behind her, and Liam beside her. Jay is sitting on the rocking chair, silently being here for me, but giving me space. So that means that the person who is curled up behind me - holding me - would be my best friend.

“He will be back… he just needs some time.” Libby says, giving me a small supportive smile.

“N-not after what he k-knows.” I cry, my tears running under her hand. Jude’s arms tighten around me, holding me together.

“But you never kissed Brad back, Ab. He is just mad and upset.” Jude whispers to me. I am suddenly fully aware that Toby is drunk and very mad. I see flashes of him getting in a cab, and it gets onto an accident… or he gets into a fight.

“Dan… can you follow him. Please. I need to know that he is safe.” I look up at my brother - who looks like he is ready to kill.

“He could take care of himself… I know he can. Let us take care of you.” he says.

“Please. I have everyone he with me. He needs you to look after him right now. I need you too.” I sniffle.

“Fine… but only because you asked. And because he needs to make this right before he dies.” My brother looks at Jude. “I don’t need to tell you to take care of her.” Dan hovers over me, looking at me. “I’ll be back. I love you.”

“I love you, too.” I reply as he kisses my head, then goes to tell Grace. My brother has become the perfect boyfriend - not that he was never perfect.

“Why did I have to tell him?” I ask no one in particular.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Why?

Why now?

Jude is sitting with me, staring at it. It’s sitting in the middle of the bed between us, along with 3 others. I look down at the little plus sign. “No, no, no…. I can’t be..”

“Ab….. What are you going to do?” Jude says, he is holding my left hand inside his.

“I don’t….. I don’t know. This can’t be the reason he comes back. I need him to come back for me, not for this…. I can’t tell him.” I look up from the happy pink sign. “You can’t tell him….. Tell anyone.”

“I won’t. This stays between us, but Ab…. You need to tell him.”

“I will. Soon, but he needs to come home first.” As I speak my stomach turns. I pull my hand from Jude’s, and put it against my mouth. “I’m… I’m going to be sick.”

“Let’s go.” Jude pulls me into the bathroom and grabs my hair when I dropped to the floor. I threw up, but nothing came up. “It’s okay.”

When I am done, Jude falls on the floor with me, pulls me to him and he holds me while I cry.

Chapter 10

I’m sitting on my bed, with my hands on my stomach. It was scary and unplanned at first, but now… I could not be happier. That is… until Toby comes home. It’s been two weeks since he left. Dan said he just needed some space, but he was fine and he would come home when he is ready. A week ago, I found out I was having a baby…. And now I have an appointment in an hour.

“Mommy is going to take care of you. I promise.” I whisper to my own stomach, which is holding my little baby. I’m hoping for a girl, but as long as my baby is healthy, I’m good. “I can’t wait to meet you, baby girl. Everything is going to be fine. Daddy will be home soon… I hope.”

“Mommy? Daddy?” That voice. That voice freezes my hands on my belly. I turn my head to see Toby standing in the doorway.

“What are you doing here?” I ask him, still stunted. I feel like pinching myself to wake up from this dream, because this has to be a dream. Toby takes a step closer to me.

“I came to talk. I need you to understand that I needed to leave, but I never really left you. I was thinking about you the whole time. I was never going to leave you… I could never do that.” he stops in front of me, then he kneels and looks at my stomach. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I was… I swear. I just wanted you to come home for me - for us. I didn’t want you to only come home for the baby.” I say, a few tears run down my face, but I make no move to wipe them.

“Love,” Just hearing my private name, makes me smile. “I would never do that. I just needed some time. I had not one intention of ever leaving you.” he leans forward and kisses my stomach.

“Really?” my tears are flowing free and fast now. The moment he kissed my - our - baby, I was gone.

“Yes. I’m with you 100% - all the way. I don’t like what happened - or that you didn’t tell me - but this is what love is. It’s not perfect… we will fight, yell and need some space from time to time, but we will never be done. You’re it for me, and I will die proving to you that you and our baby are my life.” he kisses up my body, slowly, before meeting my lips. I move my hands to around Toby’s neck, but he grabs my hand. While kissing me, he brings our joined hands to my belly. I just about melt into a puddle, right on my bed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“This is going to be cold…” the nurse tells me, as she squirts gel on my stomach. I am laying on the bed, Toby is waiting in the waiting room. The nurse - a young girl who looks no more than 25, moves the camera around, taking pictures. This lasts for about 25 minutes, in silence. “Would you like to see your baby now?”

“Yes, that would be wonderful.” I say a little too eager.

“Is there someone waiting? Would you like for them to see too?” she asks, heading for the door.

“Yes, my boyfriend - the father - Toby.” I say as she walks out of the room. A few seconds later, she comes back in the room with Toby. He walks straight for me, and grabs my hand.

“Okay…. There is the head. And the heartbeat…” she trails off when a small sound fills the room. I sit up on my elbows, never taking my eyes away from the monitor.

“Oh, my… she is so small, but her heart is so big.” I whisper.

“Your baby is perfect. Everything is just fine, 1.25 centimeters long. You look like you are 7 weeks along.” The nurse says to us.

“Wow…. hi baby.” Toby whispers, as we watch our little baby. “It looks like a blueberry.”

“She does…. Our little blueberry.” I laugh at the name. I look up at Toby and kiss his jaw. “I love you…. And our baby girl.”

“I love you too…. And our little blueberry.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Hey, dad. How’s it going?”

“Not good. The last two times I’ve seen you, you don’t look like yourself. What’s wrong, my girl?”

I sigh into the phone. “Nothing daddy. Everything is fine. We will all be at dinner tomorrow, along with Lib, Jay and Liam. Toby and I have some news that we want to share with everyone.”

“Is everything okay? You guys made up?” It’s no surprise that my dad filled himself in on my life, without me telling him anything.

“Yes, dad. Like I said everything is fine. I’ll see you tomorrow.” I tell him, as Jude walks into my room.

“Okay, love you baby girl.”

“Love you too, daddy.” I hang up and look at Jude. Without saying anything I grab the picture from my nightstand and shove it in his face. “That is my baby girl.”

“Wow… she is small.” he says, taking the picture.

“Yep, the size of a blueberry.” I say proudly. Aside from Toby and I, Jude is the only one who knows about my blueberry. “I believe that I am having a girl…”

“Well either is good with me.” Jude hands me back the photos. “I’m so happy for you, Ab.”

“Awe, Jude.” I pull him in for a hug. I snuggle into his embrace. “I love you.”

“I love you too. Just so you know… I’m going to be the cool uncle.” he jokes when we pull apart.

“Yes, you only have 3 people to beat.” I smile at him.

“Well, I’m going to be the best. I’ll teach that little one everything - all the good things.” he winks at me.

“Okay… just always make sure you’re safe - both of you.”

“Always. Now when are we telling people?” he asks, laying back on my bed. I follow him, laying down against my pillows. We lay there, staring at the ceiling.

“Tomorrow. It’s perfect because everyone will be there. Dad said it was fine if Jay and they come, so everyone will be there. I told him we have some news and he got all protective father.” I giggle a little.

“Isn’t he always…. What does he think is going on?”

“I don’t know…. I think he knows it’s about Toby and I, but he has no idea.” I turn my head to look at Jude. “What if Jenny and him don’t like this? What if they get mad?”

“Well…” Jude turns to look at me. “I think they will get a little mad, because you guys are so young, but I think overall they will be happy. I mean, they are happy for Dan and Grace.”

“True….” I look back up at the ceiling. “Well… I guess we will see.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I wake facing my clock that reads 6:12am. I woke up earlier than normal. I roll over so that I am facing Toby, and I place my head on his chest. I feel this sickening feeling in my stomach, so I place my hand over my mouth and take deep breaths. Nope, not working. I shoot up in bed so fast that I end up waking Toby. I run into my bathroom and sink to the floor. Toby is right behind me holding my hair and rubbing my back.

“It’s okay…. Let it out.” Toby coos, but nothing comes out. I know what this is and I already can’t wait for it to end.

After sitting in the bathroom - on the floor - for a while, Toby picks me up and brings me back to bed. We lay in each other’s arms, we both have one hand placed over our little baby. In this moment I know that no matter what….. Everything will work out just fine.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Abbi and Toby. How are you guys?” Jenny asks, giving us each a hug when we walk through the door.

“We’re good.” I say, looking at Toby.

“Never better.” he agrees, winking at me.

“That’s good. Well I hear all have some news to share?” Jenny is digging for answers, before we are ready to give them. It makes me smile.

“Yes…. but you will have to wait till dinner is on the table, and everyone is here.” I look around her to see the living room is filled with everyone but Dan and Grace.

“Dan said they will be here soon, and dinner is ready. We’re just waiting on the parents to be.” Jenny says, taking my hand and leading me into the kitchen. As soon as the smells hit my nose, I feel like dying. “Your father grilled some steaks, and I made some fish cakes.”

“It looks -” I breathe trying to calm my stomach down. “- good.”

“Well, of course. Your father’s steaks are to die for.” Jenny says. I look around me and I see Toby chatting with Jay and Liam. Thank god.

“Jenny, I’ll be right back.” I say over my shoulder. When I get to Toby, I burry my face in his shirt and breathe in his scent.

“Love, are you okay?” Toby wraps his arms around me.

“Hmmm.” I mumble into his chest, willing the nausea to go away. I take deep breaths and try to settle my stomach. When everything feels fine, and the nausea is gone, I push up on my toes to whisper in his ear. “I can’t go in the kitchen….”

“Okay… We will tell everyone here. Look Dan and Grace just walked through the door.” he nods his head towards Dan. I smile and go over to hug my brother. When I hug Grace, and feel her bump, I automatically think of our little blueberry.

“Hey guys. I know y’all just got here, but could you guys please go into the living room.” I say ask them when I pull away from them both.

“Sure…..” Dan says, pulling Grace with him. I follow them and stop beside Toby. I look around the room, and everyone is here, staring at us. I look up at Toby, taking his hand. I then look at Jude, who nods his head in encouragement.

“So, um, we have to tell y’all something. And please daddy, don’t get mad.” I look at my father, who raises and eyebrow at me. Jenny looks scared. “I’m….. I’m pregnant.” The room is so silent that you could hear a pin drop. Everyone is looking at me… waiting for me to start laughing.

“Oh my god!” Libby squeals, jumping up and down in her seat. Beside her, Jay has a big smile on his face. Grace has a twinkle in her eyes, and she is jumping up and down like Lib, but Dan…. he is staring at Toby - like he wants to kill him. Dad and Jenny’s eyes dance between Toby and I.

“Congrats babe! And Toby!” Liam says, walking over from his spot by the couch to give us a hug.

“Thanks, Liam.” I hug him back, then look over at my dad. “Dad? Jenny?”

“Wow that was not what I was expecting. I thought y’all were going to tell us that you guys got married.” Jenny laughs, followed by my dad. “I’m so happy for the both of you.” she jumps up to hug us both. Toby and I are soon crushed between my dad and Jenny.

“I’m so proud of you, baby girl. I know you’ll be an amazing mother…. Just like your mama.” my dad kisses my cheek, and the tears start to fall. Why the hell am I so emotional?

“Daddy……” I struggle to keep my voice even as I hold on to my dad. Toby and I are then surrounded by our family. They each hug us, and a lot of happiness is in the room. Then there is Dan - standing in front of us. He has not said a word yet.

“I want you to promise me - right now - that what happened the past 2 weeks is done. I need to know, no more running. And that you will do whatever needs to be done for my sister and niece or nephew. I need to know you will do anything and everything to keep them safe, because you’re now the man….” Dan looks at Toby, his eyes hard.

“I promise. They’re it for me, man.” Toby replies.

“Good. Then I guess I’m good with this.” Danny and Toby do the whole bro-hug-slap on the back thing. Then Dan turns to me, with open arms. I gladly stumble into them. “My little sister is all grown up.”

“Dan…. You’re having a baby too, so you’re grown up as well.” I sniffle, making him laugh.

“Yes, but you’re the baby. Andy always said that you would grow up to be a beautiful, smart young woman, but I always hated when he said that. I always wanted you to stay small and innocent.”

I pull away enough to kiss my brother on the cheek. “I will always be the baby. I love you, big brother.”

“I love you, too, little sis.” he says ruffling my hair. I look up, trying to push his hand away.

“Okay… enough of this sappy shit. I’m hungry.” Jude says, making everyone laugh. I wrap my arm around Dan’s shoulders, leaning into him. I watch as everyone scolds Jude for his words, and I catch Toby’s eye. I smile at him, and in return, I get that full smile that I love.

“I, uh, can’t go in there. I’m only 7 weeks along, and I’ll throw up everywhere.” I mutter, feeling bad that Dad and Jenny made a delicious dinner, and I can’t eat it.

“No worries, I’m like that too. I’m actually glad you said something, because I felt bad that it was only me.” Grace says, making me feel better. I’m not in this alone, I have her. And a great family.

“Girls... It’s okay. We all understand. Grace never feel bad, because we could just have this for lunch.” Jenny says with a wink.

“Pizza?” Jude asks the room, and no one objects.

We order 3 large pizza’s with 20 cans of pop - 2 for each of us. I talk to Grace, Lib, and Jenny about my baby and what to expect. We moved to the kitchen table because of the boys. The three of them plan my baby shower - not giving two shits what I think. The only thing I wanted that they allowed was that it has to be small. I look over into the living room when the boys are watching the hockey game. I get up and walk over to my dad, holding the same little picture I gave Jenny.

“Hey daddy.” I sit next to him. I’m between him and Jude.

“Hey baby girl.” he looks at me quickly before turning back to the game.

“Dad, Toby and I wanted to give you this.” I hold out the little picture for my dad to grab.

“What’s this?” he looks down at the photo, and a bright smile flashes across his face. “Is this my little grandchild?”

“Yes. Isn’t she so tiny?”

“She? You want a girl.” he looks up at me, then back to the picture - the game completely forgotten.

“Well, I had 3 brothers growing up… so yea, a baby girl would be nice. But as long as it’s healthy….” I trail off, watching as my father’s eyes start to water. “Dad?”

“Danny is right… you’re all grown up.” he looks at me. “My baby girl is all grown up.”

“Dad…. I will always be your little girl.” I lean in, and hug my father.

“I know…. I know.” my dad sighs.

“You know, Toby and I were talking about names, and we were thinking…. If we have a girl name her after mom. If we have a boy, how ’bout Andy.”

“Awe, darling. I think they would have loved that.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“I hate this!” I yell into the toilet bowl. I’m going on week 12, and still getting sick.

“It will be over soon.” Jude says. Toby ran out to get me a smoothie, and not long after he left, I’m in the bathroom - on the floor.

“I want it to end.” I heave up some more…. But again, nothing really comes up. “I want my damn smoothie.”

“Dude, give him time. It’s like 9am, the place has got to be packed.” Jude rubs my back.

Ugh.

“I don’t care.” I lift my face and grab the glass of water. I gulp down the glass, but I don’t move. I feel so weak - I hate it.

“Here.” Jude picks me up in one swift movement, and carries me to the recliner. I curl up in a ball when Jude places a blanket over me, and I turn my eyes to the T.V. 2 broke girls is on… I love this show. “You don’t have much longer with this morning sickness.”

“It’s different for every woman. Grace hardly ever got sick, but she felt nauseous all the time. Where I am the complete opposite. The book says you could still get symptoms at 20 weeks.” I tell him.

“Oh.”

“Yep, let’s hope that that is not me.” I turn my eyes to the door when I hear footsteps in the hallway. I watch the door, waiting for it to open and for Toby to come in - with my smoothie.

“I come baring gifts!” he announces as he walks through the door. I make grabby hands as soon as the smoothie is in my line of sight. I’ve been craving strawberry banana smoothies all week. Toby has been sweet enough to get them from me, whenever it was craved. “Here you go…. One strawberry banana smoothie.”

“Thank you, thank you, thank you.” I take a long sip of my cold, delicious treat. “Mmmm”

“Dude, I think she might ditch you for the smoothie.” Jude laughs, sitting on the arm or the couch.

“Nah, right love?” Toby leans his arms on the top of the recliner, looking down at me. I look up at him, not removing the straw from my mouth.

“Right…. But it’s a close call.” I take another long sip.

“Wow that hurts.” Toby holds his hands to his heart, as if he is actually wounded.

“Ouch.” Jude says. “What are you doing today, Ab?”

“Uhhhh.” I look up at the ceiling, trying to remember. “Oh! I have another dress fitting…. Again.” I mumble, half way through my smoothie. “Since the wedding is in a week, I have to see if the dress still fits. And we have another doctor appointment.”

“Why? Like why the dress?” Jude asks, ignoring Toby, who is shaking his head.

“Because I’m fat.” I whine.

“What? No, you’re still small. I mean, sure you have a tiny - and I mean tiny - stomach, but that is your baby.”

“I know, but my pants don’t fit… I have to wear yoga pants - even though I love them, I want to wear my leggings. And I will be really big soon. So big that I won’t be able to fit through the door. I’ll be like a whale.”

“No, you won’t, love. You will still look beautiful.” Toby kisses the top of my head.

“Well, before you go…. Why don’t the three of us - or four of us - go get breakfast?” Jude suggests.

“Sounds good. I just need to go get dressed.” I grab Toby’s hand, so he could help me up.

“So we’ll leave in about 5 years?” Jude jokes, which is a bad thing to do. I push his head, making him fall back on the couch. He is still laughing when I close my door. I pull out my TNA yoga pants and my light green sweater. It was once owned by Andy, but when he died, I took it. I have always loved this sweater. I choose my black flats to wear as well. I am brushing my hair when my charm bracelet catches my eye. This bracelet represents the things I love most, I need to add something for my baby. I place my hands on my stomach and slowly rub.

“Do you think I should get a charm for you, baby girl?” I ask my stomach. The book I’m reading says that they cannot hear you until 7 or 8 months, but I keep talking to her. “I’ll take that as a yes.”

I walk out of my room, 40 minutes later, and Jude and Toby are playing the game. I wait with my hands on my hips, waiting for one of them to notice me. I wait a few more seconds, and when nothing happens, I clear my throat - very loudly.

“Oh, hey love, you ready?” Toby ask, snapping his eyes to meet mine. Jude shuts off the game.

“Yes, I came out like 2 minutes ago. Let’s go… I’m hungry.” I wrap my arms around Toby’s waist and lean into him.

“Wanna take yours or his?” Jude asks, standing by key table - the table by the door with all our keys and stuff.

“Mine.” I say to him. “I want chocolate chip pancakes….”

“I’ll drive. I know the perfect place.” Toby grabs my keys from Jude before I could object.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Woo hoo. I love this place.” Jude yells from beside me. I look up at the place where Toby took us, and smile. We always came here as kids, and I always got… chocolate pancakes.

“You remembered?” I nod towards the Whimpy’s.

“Yeppers.” He hops out of my truck and holds out his hand for me to take. We walk inside, and take a booth. I slid in next to Jude and across from Toby.

“What do you guys what?” I ask, leaning my head against Jude’s shoulder.

“I want the Early Bird French Toast Combo. It comes with 2 slices of French toast and 2 eggs. With choice of 2 pcs of bacon, sausage or ham.” Toby says, dropping the menu.

“Hmmmm. I think I’ll go with the Breakfast Special. It’s kind of like yours. 2 eggs with home fries and Texas toast. Choice of 3 pcs of bacon, ham, sausage or turkey bacon.”

“Yummy. I still think that mine will be soooo much better.” I say to them. When our waiter appears, we repeat what we want, and our drinks. Toby orders Coffee, but Jude and I stick with OJ.

“No coffee?” I ask Jude, once the waiter leaves. This is so unlike him. Jude bleeds coffee.

“Nope… I’m trying to cut down.” he says with a smile. “Until you can start drinking…”

“Awwwwe. You stopped for me.” I kiss his cheek.

“Not stopped, I do like my life thank you.” I roll my eyes at that comment. “I just simply cut down.”

“Well, thank you.” I say, snuggling into him, when he wraps an arm around my shoulders. We talk until our food arrives. I look at my food, and I almost die. It is oozing chocolate sauce. My plate has 2 big pancakes that have little chocolate chips inside. On top is some strawberries and some chocolate sauce. I lick my lips and take a bite, my eyes rolling back. “Mmmmmm.”

“I thought girls only looked like that when th-” I cut him off with a smack, making him and Toby erupt with laughter.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“A lime?” I ask my doctor again, looking at the screen.

“Yes, your baby is about the size of a lime.” She says.

“Still so small…” Toby says, looking at the screen. I can see my baby girl, so small. I look down at my stomach, where she is. Only 6 more weeks till I find out what I am having.

“She is okay? Like she is growing alright and stuff?” I ask my doctor, who is now wiping away the gel on my stomach.

“Yes, everything is normal. There is nothing going on that should worry you.” she assures me.

“Thank you. “Toby says, shaking her hand. With a nod and a smile she is out of the room. “Well, we have a little lime.”

“We have a little lime.”

Chapter 11

“Wow, Lib. You look beautiful.” I say, as I walk into my room. Lib said she wanted to get ready here, then go to the church. Libby is standing in front of my full length mirror, in my closet. We are both dressed in our dresses. Mine comes down a little above my knees, and is baby pink. I have a lace neckline, and no sleeves. The dress is longer in the back - but not by much, - and has two thin straps around my shoulders. I love this dress. Liam and Toby are in the living room, waiting for us - and we are waiting for Lib’s parents and sister. Jude and Jay are at Jay’s house, meeting us at the church.

“I know. I love it.” she says, running her hands down the dress. Both she and Jay agreed that they wanted a small wedding, but by the decorations you’d think the wedding was for the queen.

“Do you know where they are?”

“Yea, my sister called and said they were leaving the hotel. They should be here soon.” Lib walks over to me and gives me a hug. “Thank you so much. I don’t think Jay and I say it enough, but we love you…. So much. You’re the best friend I never had and my sister from another mister.”

“Lib…. you’re going to make me cry.” I hug her back with all I’ve got. “I love you too, both of you. You’re the sister I’ve always wanted and needed. I will do anything for you and Jay. After all, y’all are family.” I pull away from her, and notice that we both have tears in our eyes. We both look at each other and laugh.

“Well, wasn’t that sweet.” Lib’s sister - Zoey - says. We both turn to see her standing in my doorway. She is wearing a dress the same colour as mine, but different style. Her dress comes down to her mid - thigh, and has a belt of lace around her waist.

“Hello Zo, where is mom and dad?” Lib asks, her laughter slowly dying, along with mine. I’ve never really liked Zoey, she is just really rude and says whatever comes through her small brain. Zoey does not get to answer Lib, because their mother comes rushing into the room. “Mom!”

“Oh, my. Libby you’re stunning. I love the dress.” her mother holds Lib by the shoulders, looking at the dress, before hugging her.

“Mom, you remember Abbi.” Lib says when they pull apart.

“Yes, yes. How are you Abbi?” Lib’s mother turns to me.

“I’m good, thanks. Nice to - “my words slowly die when I see him standing in the doorway, where Zoey had left. “Toby?”

“Hi, sorry Lib, but I need to borrow your maid of honour. Only for a few.” Toby walks in the room and grabs my hand.

“Sure, just bring her back…. Fully clothed.” Lib says, smiling sweetly at Toby and I.

“I’ll try.” he winks at her before pulling me away, Lib’s loud laugh following us.

“Toby…. What’s going on?” I ask as we enter the kitchen. Toby picks me up and places me on the island, and brings his mouth to mine. I kiss him back with everything that he is giving me. I bring my hands up to his face, and hold him to me. Then I bring my hands to his hair and run my finger through it. I let my body melt into him when his hands move to caress my stomach. I grip his shirt, pulling him into me because he is still too far.

“Well… I guess I should introduce myself.” Zoey’s voice pulls us apart. We are both breathing heavily, and staring into each other’s eyes, before we turn to her. Toby helps me down and wraps an arm around my waist. “I’m Zoey.” Her eyes trained on Toby, not caring that I’m beside him or that I was the one he was kissing only seconds ago.

“Hey, I’m Toby. Sorry ’bout that.”

“It’s fine. How do you know my sister?” she says, batting her eyelashes.

Ugh. Really?

“I meet both her and Jay through Abbi, my girlfriend, and her best friend Jude.” Toby puts emphasis on the word girlfriend, making me smile. I know Zoey does not care if someone is taken or not, she will go after whoever she wants, but hearing Toby tell her made me feel better.

“Babe? Are you guys ready?” Liam asks when he walks into the living room. Liam is driving us…. And he left his stuff here last night, so he got ready here with us.

“Yep, give me two seconds.” I hold up two fingers and push past Zoey to get to the fridge. I pull out one of the smoothies that I put away, and pull in a long sip.

“Really, Love?”

“I’m craving, thank you. You going to take it away?” I challenge him.

“Don’t do it, man.” Liam says, smiling at me. Earlier this week he tried to have some of my smoothie, but I kicked him. Now he knows, not to mess with me.

“Okay, fine. Have the damn smoothie.” Toby mutters. I close the two steps between us and give him a sweet kiss.

“”Thanks, baby.” I walk towards my room, with Zoey behind me. Why does she have to follow me?

“What did he want?” Lib asks when I walk into my room. She looks at my smoothie and puts her hands on her hips. “Really? Dude, you’re going to gain like 30 pounds already, why add to it only drinking that shit.”

“Firstly, I love this shit….. So do you, sometimes. Secondly, do you have a person growing inside you? No, I don’t think so. I want this smoothie, I’ll have said smoothie.”

“Okay… I’m just saying.” she huffs out.

“Liam wants to know if you’re ready.” I ask her.

“Yea, I think. Now, what did Toby really want?” she repeats her question, but I don’t have to answer. I feel my face heat up. “Oh, really? Ewe.”

“Whatever. Let’s go get you married.” I grab her hand and pull her out my door, her mother and Zoey close behind. I throw out my now empty smoothie, and walk over to where Lib is now hugging Liam.

“Damn Lib, you look amazing.” he says.

“Thanks, Liam.” she says when she pulls away. She links one arm through mine. “Let’s go.”

Toby, Lib, Liam and I drive in Toby’s car, and Lib’s mom and Zoey in their rental. Lib told me that her dad waited at the church with the guys, not wanting to intrude on the girl’s thing. When we get to the church, Lib and her father have a very emotional greeting. I tried to tell her not to cry - in fear for her makeup - but I don’t think she could stop herself if she tried. I thank god for all things waterproof. I open one of the doors, just enough to peek inside the main part - since we are now standing in the hall. I see Jay talking to Dan and Grace - who is now 7 months along and really big. I also see Jay’s parents talking to Jude. When the ceremony starts, Liam walks out to stand with Jude and Jay at the front. Toby and Lib’s mom follows them. Toby sits next to Dan and Grace. I walk out first, followed by Zoey. Lastly, Lib and her father make their way down the aisle.

Throughout the whole ceremony, I kept my eyes on Toby. He was sitting in the second row with my brother and Grace. I feel his eyes on every inch of my body, slowly looking me over. I let my eyes wonder over his black tie, and his jacket that is covering his perfect chest. I slowly bring my eyes back to his, staring into the fire that I see. I drag my eyes down to his mouth and see that ghost smile that proves he knows what he is doing to me.

“I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may now kiss the bride.” The minister’s words snap my eyes back to Jay and Lib. I swear I could hear Toby laughing from where I stand. Cheers erupt when Jay pulls Lib to him and kisses her. Without breaking contact, he picks her up and spins her around. A sudden sharp pain bolts through my stomach, making me grab the first thing I could find - Zoey. I am gasping for my breath. I need to breathe in and out.

In.

Out.

In.

Out.

“Abbi? What’s wrong?” Zoey’s voice comes from behind me. I let go of her at hold my stomach, but that only makes me stumble. Dan is in front of me so fast, I didn’t even see him move. I am now in his arms, looking at Toby who is now in front of me. Another pain shoots through my stomach.

“Love, what’s wrong?”

“It hurts.” I tell him through clenched teeth. I look up at my brother. “Please make it stop.” I am not hunched over.

What’s going on?

“Okay, breathe Ab. In through the nose, out through your mouth.” Dan tells me, holding me up. “Jude call 911…. Now.”

“Dan…. it hu-” my words die when yet another pain comes. It does not stop. The big pains are every few seconds, but the tiny ones - all the time.

“Shhh. It’s okay.” he says. Toby and he help me sit down, then sit beside me. Jude is behind me, pulling back my dress that I claw at.

“I’ll get a cold cloth…” Liam says, running to the bathroom.

“Toby, maybe call your mom?” Lib asks, now standing beside him.

“Toby…. Something’s wrong. I know it.” I look at him. My baby… there is something wrong.

“It’s okay. She is fine…” he says. Another wave hits. I fall over, my head now on Dan’s lap, my hands glued to my stomach.

Please be okay.

“We need to calm her down…” someone says, but I’m not sure who.

“Hey, Toby. How’s the wedding?” Jenny’s voice comes through the phone that Toby is holding.

“Mom, Ab’s having really bad pains in her stomach. We called 911 but they are taking forever.” Toby rushes out. I squeeze my eyes closed.

“Okay, she needs to be calm. It won’t help the baby if she is panicking.”

“It hurts like hell!” I yell into the phone. “Jenny, I’m losing her, aren’t I?” everyone is silent, waiting for Jenny to answer me.

“Are you bleeding?” she says, her voice strained.

“No, but the pain….”

“Could be anything. I don’t think you’re miscarrying.” Jenny assures me - and everyone in the room, - in a clam voice. “You might be experiencing this because of stress.”

“But I’m not… I would know.”

“Sometimes you don’t, hun. I’m no doctor, but I think you will be fine - both of you.” she says. “Now, your father and I will meet you at the hospital. Love you.”

“Love you, Jenny.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I’m sitting at South Lake Hospital, with Toby, Jude, Dan and Grace. My dad called in before we got here and requested a private room - because I have a big family. Dad and Jenny should be here any second - we just got here ourselves. Jay and Lib had to make sure their parents got back, but said they would be here as soon as possible. Liam is in the hall, trying to get the doctor to come faster. We got told that the on call doctor, was busy, but will come as soon as she was available. The pains have stopped, but I’m scared. Why did they happen in the first place? Stress, like Jenny said?

“Toby…. What if we did lose her? And the bleeding has not started yet?” I look at him - where he sits at my bedside, - my fear pouring out of me.

“We didn’t, like mom said. It was probably stress.” he kisses my head, holding my hand just as tight as I’m holding his.

“Where the hell are they?! Isn’t this a damn hospital?” Dan yells out the door, hitting the wall.

“Dan… Calm down.” Grace says.

“No! My sister could be here, losing her child……” he looks at Grace, then to me. “I’m sorry, Ab. I didn’t mean…”

“I know.” I say, not wanting him to be even more upset. With a sigh, he walks over to me.

“How are you feeling now?”

“I’m better. I’m really freaked out.” I move aside, motioning for him to climb in bed. When he climbs in, he scoops me up. I feel like I’m safe, now that I’m in my big brothers arms. I cuddle up to him, and he whisper - sings the song my mom used to sing to me. Andy and he would always sing it to me when I got scared, or hurt.

“Where are going, my little one, and such a little one? Where are you going my baby, my own? Turn around and you’re tiny, turn around and you’ve grown, turn around and you’re a big girl, walking out of my door.” he sings. I close my eyes, listening as he repeats the song once more. After he sings the song, once again, my door bursts open.

“Daddy.” I choke out when he and Jenny walk through my door. Toby moves, his place now taken by my dad. My dad places a hand on my cheek.

“It’s okay.” he soothes me.

“How are you? And the little one?” Jenny asks, from the end of my bed. Toby is now sitting with Grace.

“I feel better now, but I don’t know about my baby girl. No one has seen us yet.” I look over at Jude, then back to Jenny. “I ruined Libby and Jay’s wedding.”

“What?” Everyone in the room asks.

“No, Ab. They don’t care about the wedding, they care if you and the baby are safe.” Jude assures me. I don’t get to object because my door opens, but this time the doctor comes in with a nurse. She is wearing light pink scrubs and her brown hair is in a messy pony-tail.

“Hello, I’m Dr.Knox. How are you feeling Abbi?”

“I’m good, but my baby, how is she? What happened?” I ask her, holding on to Dan’s arm.

“We need to clear the room. Then we could check both you and your baby out, and see what’s going on.” she says, nodding around the room. Everyone starts to move out, but I catch Jenny’s arm.

“Can you please stay with me?” I ask her.

“Of course, hun.” she says, her eyes all watery.

“May I ask what your relation to Abbi is?” the doctor asks Jenny, but before she could answer, I jump in.

“She is my mom.” I look up at Jenny and smile. She leans forward and kisses my head.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Holy shit…. Is she okay? Not dead, right? And the baby… what about the baby?” I hear a soft, yet booming voice say. It sounds close, and it just woke me up. I keep my eyes closed, hoping to fall back asleep.

“Both she and the baby are fine, Libby. She was just stressed out and didn’t know. With Andy’s birthday in a mouth, the wedding, just about being a mother.” Toby says. I open my eyes, and I am looking at Toby, sitting beside my bed - where he has been all day. I look to my other side and Lib is standing, with Jay behind her. I turn towards her, when they notice I am awake.

“Ab. Oh, I am so sorry.” she cries. I grab her hand and look up at her.

“Why are you sorry? I’m sorry. I ruined your wedding.”

“What? No. You didn’t ruin anything, it was perfect. The only thing we did not get to was the after party - and we could do that anytime. You and my niece are far more important.” she says.

“Dude…. Once you get outta here. Big party.” Jay says his smile bright, making me laugh. “Just kidding. Glad to see you’re both alright.”

“Thanks guys, I love you.” I reach up and hug them both.

“We love you, too.” They say together. I hug them both, my friends, and my family.

“Okay…. As Jude would say - enough sappy shit.” I say, trying my best Jude voice, making everyone - including myself - laugh. “Where is he?”

“He and Liam went to go and get real food. This hospital shit sucks. Mom and your dad are walking around, and Dan took Grace to their appointment.” Toby replies.

Oh.

“How long was I asleep?”

“Not long, about an hour.” Toby says, looking down at me. I look up at him, and Lib and Jay just melt away. I am lost in his beautiful eyes.

“Awe. I’ve never really said it but, you guys are so cute.” Lib claps her hands, her rings clicking together, catching my eye.

“Thanks, Libby?” Toby says, totally unsure of himself - making me laugh.

“You know, most people call me ‘Lib’. Only my family calls me by my whole name, so if you could call me by my nickname, that would be great.” She huffs out, making us all laugh. Toby nods at her. Toby and Jay go to the corner, watching the game on the T.V.

“Noted.” he says, as he walks away.

“Thanks, Lib. You probably just scared him off.” I playfully push her shoulder.

“Yea, right. Anyone with working eyes could see that it would take a whole lot more than that to scare him off. That guy is like in, in love with you.” Lib says, making me smile. It’s true. Toby loves me and I really love him. Always have.

“I know. I love him so much, and the fact that we are having a baby together….. It’s unbelievable. Where is Jude and Liam? I’m starving.” I looks around for my phone, turns out…. I was sleeping on it. When I open it up, there is a new message - from Brad. I look over at Toby, who is enjoying the game with Jay.

“What?” Lib whispers, moving close to me. I forgot that she was right there. I show her my phone. “What do you think he wants?”

“I don’t know. We’ve talked a few times before, but just basic conversation.” I whisper back to her. Why are we whispering? The boys can’t hear us… right?

“Open it.” she urges.

“I - okay.” I open the text, but only after another quick glance at Toby.

~Hey. I’m in the hospital and I saw Jude and Liam. Is everything okay? ~

I look at the time, it was sent 10 minutes ago. Why is he at the hospital? I look up at Lib, her eyes urging me to message him back. It could not hurt, after all, he can see that I’ve read the message.

~Just a little scare. Why are you here? ~

I never told him that I was pregnant. I wanted to do it in person, like he should have done for me. As a best friend, Lib read my mind.

“You never told him? Good, tell him in person. Show him that you’re happy.” she smiles at me.

“So, I should shove this in his face? Everything that he is missing out on?” I ask, trying to see her point, but never get to hear it. My phone lights up with a new text, shutting Lib - and I - up.

~Emma kind of had the baby. What scare? Are you alright? Where are you? Can I see you? ~

Kind of? How do you kind of have a baby?

I look over at Toby then back to Lib. I’m so happy she already knows what I’m asking. “Hey, babe. Let’s go hunt down Jude and Liam. Ab is starving.”

“Okay, sounds cool.” Jay gets up, pats my leg and follows Lib out my door. I open my mouth several times, trying to get the words out…. But they never come.

“Toby?” I finally manage.

“Yea, love?”

“Brad is here.” I say, making him turn to look at me. I shallow, and push my next words out my mouth. “And he wants to see me.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Wait, what?” Toby shoots up from his chair and over to me.

“He texted me, telling me he saw Jude and Liam. Now he wants to see me. I mean he is my friend……. But if you don’t want him to, then it’s okay. He won’t come.” I put my hands over his. We stay like this for a few minutes, in dead silence. I could practically see the wheels turning in his head.

“Fine.” Toby breaks the thin silence. “But… I stay here.”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way.” I smile up at him.

~I’m in room 324. You can come over. ~

Toby brought over the chair, so it was closer to my bed and he could still watch the game. He never let go of my hand, always brushing his thumb over the soft skin of under my wrist, and playing with my charm bracelet. I was laughing at something that he had said, when a knock on my door come, then it slowly opened. Brad slowly let himself in, and he sat at the end of my bed.

“Damn, B. You look like hell.” I say in greeting. I could see him eyeing my stomach. I’m not that big yet, but it’s noticeable. Most can’t tell if it’s just your stomach, or if you’re pregnant. It’s kinda funny.

“Thanks, Ab. 6 hours of labour will do that to you.” he says, looking down at the floor. I see a flicker of sadness in his eyes, but it’s gone too fast. Huh. “What happened?”

“Well,” I place one hand on my stomach, and look up at him. I could see in his eyes, as he places the pieces together. “We’re pregnant. I just started having sharp pains in my stomach, so I was brought here. Turns out I was stressed without even knowing it.”

“How… uh, how far along are you?”

“13 weeks. The baby is fine…. Still healthy.” I hate to do it, but I need to know. Why the sadness in his eyes - even for just a second - when talking about the delivery. “How’s your baby? And….. her?”

“Emma is good, sleeping right now. We, huh. We lost the baby.” Brad’s words make my heart stop, and my eyes water.

Oh…..

“Oh, B. I’m so sorry.” I grip Toby’s hands tighter. “Please tell Emma I said that. I could never imagine….”

“Yea. I guess it was meant to be, you know. With him being a still born and all.” He looks down at the ground, once again. I could almost see the tears rolling down his cheek, but when he looks back at me… his face his dry.

“Are you guys going to try again?” Toby asks, clearing his throat.

“No, I can’t. Not with her.” Brad answers Toby, and looks at him for the first time. “We were a one-time thing.”

“Oh… So you prefer taken woman?” Toby asks. I look up at him with wide eyes, then link my two hands with his. Hoping that he keeps his cool.

“She told you.” Brad said it as statement, not a question.

“Of course she did. What I want to know is what kind of man makes a move on a girl he knows is taken?”

“I’m sure if you lost her, you would do - try - anything to get her back.” Brad looks Toby dead in the eye. Toby opens his mouth, but I cut him off.

“Enough.” I turn to look at Brad. “We did have something special, but we both ended it. I’m with Toby and really happy.” I turn to Toby. “And you…. You did not have to do that. We could have forgotten the whole thing.”

“Sorry, Love.” Toby kisses my hand. I blow out my breath that I was holding.

“I’m sorry too, for everything. I’m truly happy that you’re happy. You’re an amazing woman who deserves everything. I hope we could remain friends.” Brad looks at Toby. “I’m sorry, man.” he says, then walks out the room.

“I feel bad, that he lost his baby. I know he was scared because of his father… but no one deserves to lose their baby.” I say once the door closes behind Brad.

“What’s wrong with the girl he was with?” Toby asks.

“Oh, she was his step-sister. She tried to break us up since we first got together, and now she hates me even more. She claims I always meant to break his heart into pieces. I believe that she loves him, and is mad that she will never truly have him.” I look down at my hands. “I just can’t stand her.”

Chapter 12

“17 weeks!” I announce walking into my kitchen. Toby and Jude are eating cereal. “I’m 17 weeks today.”

“So one more week till you find out if you’re have a boy or a girl inside you.” Jude says, his mouth full of Fruit Loops.

“Yeppers. Toby do you have to work today?”

“I would love to lie and say no, and hang out with you here, but I have a lot to do today.” Toby kisses my head. I stick out my bottom lip and turn to Jude.

“I’ve got to work too.” he says, winking at me.

“Really? I guess I’ll spend some time with Andy alone today.” I get up and grab my smoothie from the fridge, the gross ones. Toby made me start drinking the healthy smoothies in the mornings, the ones that are disgusting.

Ugh.

“If you want to wait… I’ll be home around 3.” Jude offers.

“Nah, I think I want to go alone this time. I’ll meet you both back here for Dan’s dinner.” I smile at him, then gulp down some healthy smoothie.

“How’s the smoothie?” Toby asks, sipping his sweet smelling coffee.

“I’m going to kill you.” I glare at him. “Are you trying to kill me with this crap?”

“No… why would I do that? I would like to keep you around.” he kisses my head.

“Sure. I hate this.” I nod towards my now empty green juice.

“Could be worse, it could be someone’s dinner… if you know what I mean.” Jude says, winking at me.

“Ewe, Jude. Why?” I throw my toast at him - which he catches in his mouth. He smiles at me then gets up.

“You know you love me. See you later.” he says, kissing my cheek.

“I’ve got to go too. Are you sure you’re going to be okay, love?” Toby says coming to sand beside me.

“Yes, Toby. I’m fine.” I kiss him, then push him towards the door. “I love you, and will see you later. Have fun at work.”

“Okay, I love you.” he says. When he closes the front door, I go into my room. I pick up the picture I have on my nightstand of Dan, Andy and I.

“Happy birthday, brothers.” I whisper to the picture.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Hello?”

“Happy birthday, dude.” I say in a sing song voice.

“Hey sis, thanks.”

“Dinner is still at dad’s, right.”

“Yes, but we are bringing along Grace’s mom, since we are all family. So please… no stories.” Dan pleads, making me laugh.

“Nope, sorry. I can’t make any promises there, brother. Anyway, it’s kind of like an unsaid thing. We always relive memories at one of our birthdays.” I say. “Lib and Jay can’t make it…. They are stuck at her parents’ house for another week, and Liam may be able to make it. I think he has to work, so looks like it’s just the fam.”

“Awe, that sucks. Oh well. Hey, could you pick up some ice cream cake?” he asks.

I laugh. “You forgot your own cake?”

“Ha, ha. Yes, I forgot my own cake. Could you please pick some up? Or do I have to call Toby?”

“I guess I have to pick it up. If you call Toby, he will just laugh his butt off.” I sigh into the phone, picturing Toby hearing this.

“Ass.” Dan mutters, again making me smile. “Anyway, are you going to see him?”

“Of course. I’m leaving once I get dressed.” I pause for a second. “Did you?”

“Grace and I are going after our appointment. Now that the baby is close, we have them, like, every other week.” he sighs. “I guess I’ll see you later.”

“Yes, I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I walk up to the grave that holds my brother. I sit in front of his headstone, cross legged. I place the flowers that I brought - Daisies, Andy’s favorite. Even though he would never admit it. - And I place them on the headstone. Andy was so sweet, he always showed it. He also saw the beauty in everything, everyone. I believe that’s why he was so love - because he was sweet and manly at the same time.

“Happy birthday, big brother.” I smile at his name, carved into the stone. “Jeez, the past month has been rough. Where were you? I though since you were up there, you could help me along in the ‘game of life’” I giggle. “I remember when that’s what you thought life was…. A game. You believed that we would wake up one day…. And we would be just babies.” I sigh, looking down at the grass. “But then you grew up, and learned that life is the real shit. It sucks, and unfair…. But then it’s perfect, for one little moment.”

I take a deep breath, before going on. “Anyway, I’m sorry I haven’t been around much. In a week I find out what we are having.” I place my hand on my stomach. “I promise to tell her all about her uncle Andy, and bring her here… all the time.” I look down at my hand, then back at his name. “I’m scared, Andy. What if I’m not a good mother? What if I end up killing my child? Because you have to feed it, and make sure it does not die in its sleep. It will depend on me for everything…. It’s a lifetime job. So what if I mess it all up?” I reach up and wipe my tears away for my eyes.

“I need you, Andy. I miss you like hell. I need my brothers - both of you.” I look up to the sky, a drop of rain falling on my forehead. I keep my eyes on the sky above me - waiting for him to fly down or something. “Stupid, I know.” I say into the sky, and watch the rain drop onto his headstone. The raindrops now mixing with my silent tears.

“I’m sorry this happened to you. I’m sorry for being mad at you, at myself and the world. I’m so sorry. I’m done being mad, but I’ll never - ever - be done missing you.” I stand up, kiss my palm and place it on top of the headstone. “I love you, big brother. Happy birthday.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Happy birthday to you….” we all sing, as we watch Dan eye the ice cream cake – the cake that I picked up. Jenny, Dad, Jude, Grace, Grace’s mom, Toby and I watch as Dan licks his lips, closes his eyes, and makes a wish.

“What did you wish for?” Jude asks, wiggling his eyebrows. Since I am between Jude and Toby, I get to slap Jude. “Ow! Okay.”

“Thanks, Ab. Anyway you know the rules, can’t tell a soul till midnight.” Dan says to Jude, making him roll his eyes.

“The rules are shit and you know it.” Jude says.

“Really, Jude?” Jenny looks at him with narrowed eyes, but Jude just smiles sweetly at her.

“There are rules?” Grace asks, looking around the table.

“When Andy and I were little we always wanted to know each other’s wish, so we made a rule. You can tell everyone your wish…. Just not on your birthday. We would set our alarms, whatever the day - for midnight, just so we could tell our wish. Then when Abbi was born and old enough to understand, we sheared the rule with her…. And Toby, and Jude when he came into the family.”

“Sheared? Yea, right. Y’all use to make me tell you the next day. I remember the first time I used that rule, I was 6. I did not want to tell you guys, I was scared it would not come true. So y’all cornered me - that is until Toby walked in. Then you guys jumped away.” I narrow my eyes at Dan.

“Whatever. We only backed away because Loverboy over here, would have had our heads.” Dan points to Toby. I turn my head and kiss him, smiling against his lips. “Let’s cut this cake now.” we each grab a slice of the cake, and talk…. Mainly telling stories.

“Remember when you boys scared Abbi on Halloween?” Jenny asks, Dan.

“Yes! She was scared shitless and made me stay with her until she fell asleep every night, for a whole week.” Toby says, smiling down at me.

“Ohhhh.” Dan laughs, throwing his arm around Grace. “Andy and I dressed up as clowns at school, and we followed her home. We also switched her C.D in her player to something we got you to record.” Dan points to Toby. I look up at him in shock.

“I see you… Abbi. Sleep tight, while I cut you deep.” I say, remembering his words. “That was you?”

“Sorry, love.” he says, moving to kiss me, but I move away. The whole table ‘oohs’.

“I was 10. It was not funny.” I turn to look at Dan. “I hate clowns... “I look at Dad. “Dad, they should have gotten a lot more trouble than they did.”

“You’re right, baby girl.” my dad agrees. I smile over at Dan, who sticks his tongue out at me.

“Daddy’s girl.” he taunts.

“And proud to be one.” I nod my head.

“Remember when Andy got his license?” Toby says. I nod my head, but Dan talks.

“Yea, he got it before me… and you. He was the first.”

“He took us all in Dad’s car and brought us to the beach. He would yell out the window, every 5 minutes. ‘I’m free!’” I say, smiling at the memory.

“Well, he had to drive the three of us around till we got our license. So I don’t think he felt that free.” Dan says.

“Well, I was the baby. He loved driving me places. I had just started high school after all.” I say, again smiling at the memories. Andy would drop off Toby and Dan, then take me for coffee. At that age, only he knew about my coffee addiction.

“We’ll be right back. Why don’t you guys show Grace and Pam your mother’s logs?” Dad said, pulling Jenny up with him. Dan and I nod.

“Beers?” Jude asks.

“I’ll have one.” Dan says.

“Me too.” Toby echoes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When Jude comes back with the beers, we move to the backyard. Grace, Pam, and I pull out the blankets, Toby sets the fire, and Dan and Jude get my mother’s logs. The first thing my mother bought for this house, was her logs for the campfire. They looked like real, big, broken tree branches, but they were just benches - in log form. She said it would always remind her of camping. Mom loved to camp - minus the bugs, and tents. She loved to sit around the fire - with her logs. Toby and I curled up on one, Dan, Grace and her mom sat on another on our left side, and on our right was Jude - who moved next to me when Dad and Jenny came out.

“Who wants to request a song?” Dad says, holding up Andy’s guitar. It was once his, but then Andy really got into playing. It was Andy’s graduation gift.

“Feels like home.” I pipe up. It was mom’s favorite campfire song. As my dad starts the song, I lean my head against Jude’s shoulder and hold Toby’s hand. Jenny softly sings the lyrics to the song. Both she and mom had wonderful voices. They would always sing at the fires.

“There’s something in your voice, Makes my heart beat fast. Hope this feeling lasts, the rest of my life.” Jenny sings, with a smile on her face. I look at Toby, and find him looking at me. When Jenny gets to the course, I join in.

“It feels like home to me. It feels like home to me. It feels like I’m all the way back, where I come from. It feels like home to me, it feels like home to me. Feels like I’m all the way back where I belong” Jenny and my voice blends together, singing the soft song. While singing, I look around the fire - at my family. Without missing beat, my dad starts to play ‘Cooler than me’ - Dan’s favorite song - after Jenny and I sing the last line. I look over at Dan, and smile. I get up and walk over to him.

“Let’s sing…. For him.” I say as I sink down next to him. Dan throws his arm around my shoulders and we start to sing Andy’s song. We are totally off key, but we are having fun. We sing, and roast marshmallows. After a while, I sit next to Toby and Jude again, both have had a few drinks, so I’m driving home. Nice. I realize that being here, with everyone, is just what I needed. They all make me see that I need to live my life, if not for me, then for Andy. I know that I am going to mess up being a parent sometimes, maybe feel like I am the worst parent ever, but I’ll be fine. Because I have family, and my friends to help me along the way. I have mom and Andy looking out for me, too. Tonight confirmed that family will always come first…… no matter what the odds are.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A week later, Toby and I are in the exam room with our doctor. I am laying on the table - once again - with the gel on my stomach. Our doctor is moving the little stick around my stomach, looking for our baby. Today is the day we find out the sex. Toby says he will be happy with a boy or a girl, but I know he would want a girl - we both do. We got told that the heartbeat is fine, and about 5 1/2 inches long, and he weighs almost 7 ounces - about the size of a bell pepper. That explains the size of my stomach.

“Okay, are you both ready to know what you’re having?”

“We are so ready, right love?” Toby asks, kissing my hand.

“Yes, very ready.” I say, not taking my eyes off the screen.

“Okay, looks like you’re having a…… “Girl. Girl. Girl. I chant in my head. “Girl.” My doctor says, smiling over at us.

“A girl? Really?” I choke out. My eyes start to get watery with unleashed tears. I’m having a baby girl. We’re having a baby girl.

“Yes, a girl. See right there.” My doctor points on the monitor. Sure enough, it was a girl.

“Oh, Toby. We’re having a girl.” I cry, turning to look at him. I catch sight of one tear, rolling down his cheek. He tears his eyes off the screen, and looks down at me.

“We’re having a girl, love.” he leans down and kisses my head, eyes locked on mine.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Congrats, Ab. Now dad can have a granddaughter and grandson.” Dan says, his voice booming over the speakers. Toby and I are driving back from the doctors. Toby has his phone hooked up so it goes through his car speakers. “Congrats to you too Toby. I know you’ll both make great parents.”

“Thanks, bro.” Toby says.

“Thanks, Dan.” I say. “Hey, we just got back. I’ll call you later?”

“Yep, tell Jude hey for me.” he says.

“Will do. Love you.” I say, as we pull into the apartment parking lot.

“Love ya too, sis. Bye.” With that, Dan hangs up. Toby and I walk up the stairs, and into my apartment. This week Toby, Jude, Dan, Liam, and Jay, will be moving my things to Toby’s house. Since Toby’s house is already paid off, and has enough room for the baby, I’ll be moving in... I don’t want to leave Jude, we have lived together since we were 18, and we were never far apart before then. It’s only a 10 minute drive away from our apartment.

Toby and I are watching a movie - something borrowed - when Jude walks in with pizza. Without saying a word, he drops the box on the coffee table and sits across from me.

“Are you okay?” I ask, eyeing him warily.

“Me? Yea, I’m fine. Just, you know, quit my job.” he says, ever so casually, taking a slice of pizza.

“You what? Why?” I sit up, resting my elbows on my knees, and my chin on my hands.

“Well.” he looks at Toby, then back at me. Jude sighs, and puts his pizza down. “I - we - have notice how upset you’ve been since Toby asked you to move in. I know you say it’s no big deal…. Moving out of here. So Toby and I came up with a plan.”

“Wait, before you find out, Please listen to everything. No interrupting.” Toby taps my nose.

“Fine. I’ll shut my mouth. Now what’s going on?”

“We know that you like it here because you’re close to everyone. I live 2 feet away” Jude says, winking at me. “Liam lives down the hall, and Lib and Jay live across the street. Everyone is close - walking distance. So, lover boy over here, came up with a plan. One that makes everyone happy.”

I look over at Toby - waiting for him to continue, because Jude is now done talking. Jude looks between Toby and I with a big smile on his face.

“I talked to mom, and my dad had a lot of money saved. I knew this, but not how much. My mom put everything in an account for me, but I could not touch it until I turned 20. Because I was not home, I had no idea of this. Anyway, I felt bad that you had to move away from your friends, even just 10 minutes away, so I sold my house and bought this building. Jude and I were thinking about knocking down the wall between this apartment, and the one next door. We could connect them, and still live with Jude.” Toby says, holding my hands. “This way you’re still in a place you know….. With the people you love so close to you. The neighborhood is safe, and so is this place. I still have money saved up from when I was away, and I know you have some. So we are set.”

I am quiet for a moment, letting everything sink in. “Oh. My. God. I love it. I love you guys.” I throw my arms around Toby, kissing him on the lips. Then I jump Jude. I fall on top of him, kissing his cheeks. “Thank you!”

“No problem. I didn’t want you to leave either. Andddd” Jude drags out the word. “We get a bigger place. And don’t pay rent.” Jude finishes with a big smile.

“Wait, why did you quit your job?” I ask, trying to put the pieces together.

“Oh, I didn’t like working there. My boss was on extra ass mode today. I’ll help Toby with the apartments, then look for something else.” He waves his hand. I sit back down beside Toby.

“Oh. Okay.” I pick up my phone and call Lib.

“Hey, Ab. How’s it going?” she says when she picks up. I laugh at the name. We’ve called each other bitch most of the time we have known each other. Before we meet, we both thought the other was a real bitch, until Jude meet Liam, and we all became friends. Now it’s more like an inside joke.

“Not much. Hey want to come over and help make plans for my daughter’s room?” I am, knowing I never told her what we are having yet.

“Wait…. Daughter? Omg!” Lib squeals, then yells over to Jay. “It’s a girl!”

“Yes, we’re having a girl.” I giggle along with her.

“Yay! Now I have a niece. I’m going to spoil the shit outta her.” Lib says, as a matter of fact.

“Of course you are. Anyway, can you and Jay come over?”

“We’ll be there in a few.” Jay yells into the phone before the line goes dead. I look at Toby and nod my head.

“Jude, when Jay and Lib get here, Ab and I want to talk to you and Lib. So don’t go far okay.” Toby gets up when his phone rings. While he talks on the phone, I go to my room to get my laptop. When I come back out, Toby is sitting on the couch where I was seated only seconds ago.

“Nice spot.” I says, smiling and shaking my head. I walk towards him, but stop when I feel something. It feels weird, like in my stomach. On habit, Toby is right by my side.

“What, love? What’s wrong?”

I look up into his eyes. “Nothing. I, uh, I think our baby girl just moved.”

“Really?”

“Yes. Wow, I never thought it would feel like that.” I say, letting Toby bring me over to the couch, sitting beside Jude. Toby sits on the arm of the couch. Both he and Jude look at me, waiting for me to finish my thoughts.

“Feel like what, Ab?” Jude asks, pulling me against him. I lay my head on my best friend’s shoulder.

“It felt wonderful. It felt good to feel her. I know we have seen the ultrasound, but I just felt sure that she was in there, that she was safe. I felt her little foot against my stomach.” I look up at my best friend. “I felt like…. A mother.”

“Awe, Ab.” Jude coos.

“That sounds wonderful, love.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“So I was thinking pink. Pink everything.” I tell Lib. We are sitting at the island, picking out things for my little girls room. The boys are in the living room playing the game, paying no mind to us. So far, Lib and I have picked out a rocking chair, a dresser, some clothes, a swing and changing table. Now we are picking out the crib.

“Yes! Oh this is going to be perfect.” Lib says, pointing to a baby pink crib. “What about this one?”

“It’s perfect! I love how it’s all pink, but then has some purple dots along the skirt.” I say.

“And, the dark wood bar…. Just like the rocking chair. I love it.” She says. I nod my head, totally agreeing with her. This is the perfect crib for my baby girl. Lib clicks on the crib, ready to order.

“What is that?” I say, pointing to the little red writing just above the cost.

“Awwwe. It says they are out of these cribs!” Libby whines.

“What?! No….” I say. “Toby, this does not say that right.” I ask. I bring the laptop over to him, not wanting to believe that the perfect bed for my baby, is not available.

“I’m sorry, love. But it does.” he says. I stick out my bottom lip and pout.

“Awe, Ab. Don’t pout. Aren’t there like thousands of cribs?” Jude says.

“Shut up, Jude. This one was the perfect one! It would look perfect with everything else, and I know my baby girl would love it.” I say. I walk back over to Lib, and we try to find a crib that is close to the one I wanted, but no such luck. We end up choosing a pale pink crib, with white outlining and bars.

Chapter 13

*I gotta stay high, all the time. To keep you off my mind. ohh, ohh. High, all the time.*

*I gotta stay high, all the time. To keep you off my mind. ohh, ohh. High, all the time.*

Ugh, who is calling this early? It’s 2 am. Toby has changed my old ringtone to something cuter. My ‘suck ass’ ringtone was changed to a ‘kick ass’ one. Without opening my eyes, I grab my phone, and answer the call. “What!” I snap at the person on the other end. My sudden voice in the silent room, cause Toby to stir.

“Ab, Grace is in labour.” My brother’s scared voice comes through the phone. I bolt upright, suddenly fully awake. I slap Toby. “I need you guys to meet us at the hospital.”

“Of course, Dan. Did you call dad and Jenny?” I slap Toby again and he wakes up with a jerk.

“What? What’s wrong?” Toby asks, looking at me with wide eyes.

“Yes, they are on their way.” Dan replied to me.

“Okay. We will be there, soon. I love you both.” I say, climbing out of bed. At 20 weeks, it’s getting hard.

“Love you too, sis. See you soon.” Dan ends the call.

“Love, what’s going on?” Toby gets up from bed and follows me into Jude’s room. I slap Jude on the head with a pillow. I take the chance to tell Jude and answer Toby at the same.

“Grace is having the baby. Dan needs us to meet them there. Hurry up.” I move back to my room, leaving Jude scrambling out of bed. Toby follows me, and we get dressed. I throw on some sweatpants, and a tank top. Toby puts on his black jeans and a light blue sweater. I start to walk towards the door, when Toby stops me.

“Hey, calm down. It’s going to be fine. I know you want to be there for him, but you need to eat first. I need you healthy for our baby girl.”

“Fine. I’ll make a bagel and eat it on the way.” I say, as Jude walks into the kitchen. He silently grabs a bagel for me and puts it in the toaster. “Thanks.”

“No problem. He’s right. You and my niece come first.” Jude replies, waving me away as he gets out the stuff from the fridge. He gets out the cream cheese, and my breakfast smoothie. As Jude is making my bagel, I drink the smoothie. Jude, Toby and I walk out the door and get in my truck when my bagel is ready. We stop for some coffee, and we get enough for Jenny, Dad, and Dan as well. I know he will need it. My doctor says that your first labour could last up to 36 hours

“Hey, dad” I hug my dad when I spot him. “Hey Jenny.” I hug her next. As Toby and Jude hug them, I look around. “Any news?”

“No. Last we heard she was only 3 centimeters, but that was like an hour ago.” Jenny says, pulling me to the chairs. “My dear, you need to sit down and rest. Did you eat?”

“Yes, mom. I made her eat before we came.” Toby says from where he is standing beside my father and Jude.

“Good. How are you feeling?” She turns her attention back to me.

“I’m pregnant, not disabled you know…. But I’m fine.” I smile up at her. She sits down beside me.

“Well honey, you need to get used to people coddling you. It’s going to happen, more so now that you’re expecting.” Jenny smiles at me. We wait in the little blue room. I’m sitting between Jenny and Jude. I rest my head on Jude’s shoulder and hold Jenny’s hand. Toby keeps telling me he could put some chairs together, so I could get some sleep, but I decline. I want - need - to be awake when my brother burst through the door announcing my little nephew’s name.

Around the 3rd hour, my back starts to hurt. So Toby rubs it for me, and he gives me some water as well. At 7, I fall asleep with my head on my daddy’s lap.

“Good morning, baby girl.” my dad says when I wake up. I rub my eyes and sit up.

“How long have I been out?”

“Not long, an hour and a half.” my dad says, rubbing my back.

“I can’t believe I fell asleep. He didn’t come out, did he?” I ask, looking around the room, searching for joyful faces. Instead, I am meet with Toby and his mom talking a few seats away, and a passed out Jude across from my dad and me.

“No.” my dad chuckles. “I’m sure you would have woken up. And you needed the rest.”

“Yea, I know.” I look at my dad. “I love you, daddy.” I hug him tight.

“Awe, baby girl. I love you too.”

The small, metal door burst open, making Jude and I jump. When I see my brother standing in the doorway, I jump up. I run over to him and give him a big hug. I notice the black circles under his eyes, but his eyes have a sparkle.

“Hey sis. Look at these.” he passes me his phone. I look down at the screen and see a little boy. I look at my nephew’s face. His small eyes, and nose.

“Ohhhh, Dan.” I look up at him. “He’s perfect.” I say. My dad, Jenny, Toby and Jude surround me, looking at the phone as well.

“They took him to get some tests done, but he is healthy. You are looking at the first picture of Jacob Andy Thomson. He was born at 8:15 am, weighing at 7 pounds and 2 oz.” Dan says, with a proud smile on his face. I place my hand on my stomach, as I look back down at the picture. Jacob has his hand in a fist and he is wrapped in a blue blanket.

“Congrats, daddy.” I say to Dan when I hug him once again. When I step back, I hand him his phone and let everyone else say their congratulations. When everyone is done, I ask “How’s Grace?”

“She is good - sleeping right now.”

“Understandable. It’s been a long night.” Jenny says.

“Yes. She was really good though, she had no drugs - didn’t even ask for them.” Dan tells us.

“Good. I know she wanted to be all natural.” I say.

“Well congrats again, and I hate to leave right away, but I should get love to bed.” Toby says, wrapping his arm around my waist. When I try to protest, he puts his finger to my lips.

“It’s alright, Ab. I know you need your sleep. I need you take care of yourself and my little niece in there, now. I will see all of you later today?” Dan asks.

“Yes -”

“Later…. Like late lunch.” Jude finishes for Jenny. “I need my damn beauty sleep.” Everyone laughs at Jude, and we all say good-bye. As soon as we walk through our door, Toby picks me up and carries me to our bed. I watch as he walks to his side and climbs in. Toby pulls the fuzzy blanket up from the end bed, and drapes it over us. I snuggle into him, and I feel my eyes become droopy.

“Toby?”

“Yea, Love?”

“I can’t wait to see our little girl.” I yawn.

“I know, me too.” he kisses my forehead. “Get some sleep, baby.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I wake to a cold, empty bed. I get up - taking my fuzzy blanket with me - and walk into the living room. I find Jude on the couch watching a movie. I sit down beside him, and rest my head on his shoulder. Jude wraps his arm around me and leans us back.

“How did my girl sleep?”

“Good. I had no idea how tired I was until I hit my warm, comfy bed. I thought I was fine, since I slept at the hospital.”

“I could see that that hour of sleep at the hospital was not enough.” he says.

“Where did Toby go?” I ask, snuggling into him. Jude takes my blanket from me, and throws it over both of us.

“He said he would be back soon. He told me he had to pick up a surprise for you.” Jude says. I look up at him, and by the slight smile on his lips I know that he knows what it is.

“Jude…. What is it?”

“Nope. I’m not telling.” He looks down at me, with a huge grin on his face. “I know you’ll love it though.”

“Jude! Tell me.” I whine. Whenever I want to know something, I normally can find out by whining. Jude hates it, so he normally gives in.

“Not going to work. Not this time.” Jude says, grinning ear to ear. I open my mouth to whine again, but the sound of his phone ringing stops me. He pulls it out from his packet, and answers it - getting up to turn down the T.V. “Hey, Jenny. Yes? Okay? What?! Okay.” he passes me the phone, his eyes locked on mine.

“Jenny?” I say, my voice is wobbly. I can tell by the look in Jude’s eyes that something is not right.

“Abbi, honey.” She sniffles. “I’m sorry.”

“Jenny? What’s wrong? You’re scaring me.” I start to panic. I sit up straight and automatically think of the worst. I know that something is wrong - very wrong.

“Abbi….” she says, her voice breaking. Jenny’s next words shatter my world.

The End

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