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Chapter 51

“Family isn’t blood. It’s the people who love you. The people who have your back.”
~Cassandra Clare, City of Heavenly Fire

Mia and I rushed to the hospital with Everly, Mark, James, the Stewarts, the Wallaces, and the Griffiths in tow. Today was the five-year mark for Mia being in remission, and we’d find out if she was truly cancer-free. I hadn’t seen my sister this excited in years, and I prayed we received good news.

Will met us at the hospital. After hearing how he stopped his dad from attacking me and considering he’d been with Mia through some of her tougher times with her cancer, she’d invited him for the reveal. James informed me Will canceled a meeting so he could attend. Despite our usual awkwardness together, none of that was present as we were all too eager to hear Mia’s news.

Mia couldn’t stop pacing in the waiting room, anxiously waiting for the doctor to call us back for the results. All of us showed our agitated anticipation- some with foot-tapping and others by twiddling their thumbs. Finally, after almost half an hour of waiting, the doctor called Mia into the back room. Then it was my turn to pace, heels clacking against the floor.

“Ow!” Everly grunted, clutching her stomach. We all turned to look at her, worried. “Sorry, just Braxton Hicks contractions.”

“I know you’re not due for another month, but are you sure you’re not going into actual labor?” I asked.

Everly nodded. “As much as I’m ready for the baby to come out, I don’t want him coming out right now. I’m not taking the spotlight away from Mia on her special day because I know her numbers are going to be amazing, and that she is going to be ringing that bell.”

As if on cue, Mia walked out, her face unreadable. She gave us a small smile and said, “I have good news and bad news.”

I took a deep breath as I felt the rest of my group come stand behind me. Keeping my voice steady, I replied, “Bad news first, then the good news.”

“Bad news is I won’t get to see my friends at the hospital.” Mia broke out into an ear-to-ear grin. “Good news is I’m cancer-free!”

Before my sister could react, I had her in a crushing hug as tears cascaded down my cheeks from my horribly loud, happy sobs. Mia had been through so much, and now, she could live her life without this shit hanging over her head. I pulled away to let the others give her their congratulations and noticed Mia crying as well. One by one, she hugged everyone in the group, even Will, who stood slightly apart from us. Mia didn’t really give him an option as she threw herself into him. He appeared taken aback, although whether it was from her exuberance or the fact she was hugging him in general, I couldn’t tell.

The rest of the group- except for Will- hugged me after Mia, consoling me as I continued my pathetic sobbing. It took us about ten minutes before we could gather ourselves to follow the doctors to the famous bell, the one every patient deemed cancer-free rang. Mia clanged it loud and hard with a victorious smile on her face and a fire in her eyes I hadn’t seen in years. My heart burst with pride and admiration for my little sister. She’d overcome so much at such a young age and had more fight in her pinky than most people did in their entire body.

“I’m really happy for you two,” Will said, slowly approaching me. “You both deserve all the best things in the world, and I hope this is the start of a new, wonderful path.”

“I think it will be. It’ll be an even better start once I fix my makeup before we go out for lunch to celebrate,” I joked, wiping some smeared, supposedly waterproof mascara from underneath my eyes. “Are you coming?”

“I don’t want to overstay my welcome. The lunch is for family, but I’m truly honored she invited me to witness this.”

“Mia wouldn’t have invited you to this if you weren’t also invited to lunch. No matter what happened between us, I can’t deny that you were there for both of us during some of the hardest times of her cancer.” I steeled myself, preparing to say the words I never thought I would. “Will, please-”

Everly gasped, interrupting me. I frowned at the pool of water underneath her. It took a second to register with me what just happened, but I was the first to come to my senses by blurting out, “Oh my god! Your water just broke!”

October 4, 2018.

4:28 A.M.

Reid Alexander Stewart was born.

A week and a half later, he was released from the NICU with a clean bill of health. The doctor said stress most likely brought on the premature birth. Taking into account everything Everly had been through in the last few months, it was easy to understand.

We all sat in Everly’s room, staring in awe at the newest member of our family. Everly rested in her bed, cradling her son and staring down at him with an adoring smile. Mark sat next to her, the same, wistful expression on his face as his girlfriend’s.

“I guess Reid heard me when I said I didn’t want to steal Mia’s spotlight. Kind of,” Everly remarked. “I’m sorry we never got to go out to celebrate.”

“I literally have all the time in the world now to celebrate that. We’ll go another day. Besides, what better gift could I have asked for than my nephew to be born the day after I was cleared cancer-free? Honestly, I think I’m almost as excited as you are about him being born,” Mia said.

Everly chuckled. “Whenever I need a babysitter, I’ll call you. I just can’t wait to drop this baby weight. Although, with how busy I am taking care of him, I’m going to lose it in no time!”

“Sorry I’m late,” Will said, entering the room. He wore a sharp, navy suit, causing his blue eyes to appear darker than usual, almost like sapphires. “Meeting went over. How’s my nephew?”

“Asleep because I’m awake. I swear Reid knows exactly when I’m asleep because he starts crying every time I do,” Everly replied. “Anyway, I’m glad you’re here because Mark and I wanted to ask you and Annalise something.”

Involuntarily, I glanced over at Will. Our gazes met for a brief second. I could see my own confusion and hesitance reflected in his eyes.

“What is it?” I queried.

“Annalise,” Mark began, “you have been more than a friend to me since I’ve known you. You’ve been a sister and a confidante, and you helped me when I had no clue what to do. You were the first to discover Everly’s pregnancy, and you helped her when I couldn’t.”

“And Will,” Everly added, “I know you and Annalise haven’t been getting along this past year, and you’ve made a lot of mistakes, but no matter what, you were always there for me. You let me into your home when I had nowhere else to go, and you’ve made sure I’ve had the best care possible. You’ve let Mark live here with me, and like Annalise is a sister to Mark, you are a brother to me, and I can never thank you for everything you’ve done for me and my new little family recently. With that being said, Annalise, Will, would you two be willing to be Reid’s godparents?”

“I’d be thrilled!” I exclaimed. “Oh my god, yes!”

“I’d be honored!” Will chimed in, equally as enthusiastic.

Everly sighed in relief. “That’s so good to hear! Oh, Mia, James, I haven’t forgotten what you’ve done for us either. Mark and I have already decided we’re going to give Reid a sibling one day. I know it’s a while until that happens, but we want the two of you to be their godparents.”

Mia nearly pulled a muscle in her face she smiled so broadly. “I’m in!”

“I couldn’t turn down that honor,” James said, grinning. “And I’ll have Mia to walk me through the steps of taking care of a baby because God knows I’m useless at it right now. I’m terrified to even hold one. I feel like I’m going to break them. Their head just rolls like a bowling ball if it’s not propped up properly. It’s horrifying.”

“Speaking of holding, may I hold my godson?” I requested, hopeful.

“Of course!” Everly replied. I gingerly took Reid from her and cradled him close to my chest. He blinked sleepily up at me, but thankfully, he didn’t cry. While I held my godson, Will shuffled up behind me, his chest pressing into my shoulder blade.

“Hey there,” Will whispered, offering Reid his finger. Reid clasped his own, tinier fingers around it. “Oh, you’re already strong! Your godfather and godmother are going to spoil you, and I’m going to tell you all the stories about me and your mom getting into trouble when we were kids.”

Everly groaned. “Oh god. Even the armory story?”

“Are you kidding? That’s going to be the first one,” Will said with a grin. He started to say something else, but a knock interrupted him. Everly called for them to come in, and the moment the visitor entered, Will took a protective stance in front of me.

King George smiled at everyone. “How’s the baby doing?”

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