What Doesn't Kill You

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Chapter 31

Days rolled into weeks and weeks blurred into months. To say they had been busy was an understatement. Lucky, with his renewed sense of purpose, started to work on advertising for the book shop and hired someone else to try and ease the workload for Scout.

He had just finished his last round of chemotherapy and she had cried at every single appointment with Dr Thomas since she’d shown them the continual shrinking of the secondary tumours. Lucky said she was ridiculous and emotional and Scout reminded him that it was all thanks to him that she was in this state.

They were all gathered at Chris’s house to celebrate the fact that Lucky was done with chemotherapy. It was a couple of weeks late but Lucky seemed so exhausted after everything that they wanted to give him a chance to recover a little so he could actually enjoy this.

“All of this for me? You guys shouldn’t have,” Lucky said with a cheeky grin.

Scout rolled her eyes at how ridiculous her boyfriend was but she was always secretly elated that he was more like himself these days. She knew this was just the start of another long stretch. Lucky had a small reprieve from the hospital to regain his strength and then he would undergo his second surgery. The stoma reversal surgery saw his bowel reconnected and he’d no longer need the stoma, something he was pleased about but it meant going through recovery all over again.

Add all that to the fact that in a few months time they’d also have a baby in the mix. There were days when Scout felt completely overwhelmed with everything that was going on. On those days, Lucky was her support network. He got her to breathe and stop thinking twenty steps ahead. Scout never realised how well they balanced each other out.

Chris had put together a lavish dinner at his house and hosted the entire family.

“You’re looking more and more like yourself,” Ava said, hugging her twin.

“Your hair’s growing back then?” Michael said, ruffling Scout’s hair.

“She looks like a peach,” Lucky laughed.

Scout looked at him. “I swear, one day I’m going to just leave you in a field somewhere.” But Lucky didn’t hear her. He was too busy laughing with Ava. Lucky had taken to calling Scout a peach because as her hair had started to grow back, she had a soft blonde fuzz all over her scalp. He only stopped when she threatened to shave it all off again.

“We all know Scout could do better than you so you’re already pushing your luck,” Chris told his son.

“Nah, there’s no way she could do better than me.”

Scout rolled her eyes but Lucky was slowly and surely getting back to his normal self. He was a lot less conscious about his hair and his body. She thought he’d realised they had more important things to spend their time on.

The family sat down at the table and started to serve themselves. The smell made Scout’s mouth salivate and her stomach growl. They stopped when the doorbell rang.

“I’ll grab it,” Scout told them.

“Don’t be silly,” Chris said. “You all carry on and I’ll be back now.”

Chris left them and Michael poured himself a drink and one for Lucky. When Chris returned to the room, Scout’s jaw dropped as Jim was with him.

“Hello, everyone,” Jim said quietly.

Lucky grabbed Scout’s hand under the table and she looked at him. He had a soft look in his eye and she knew he was telling her to stay even though every part of her wanted to get up and leave.

“What is he doing here?” Scout whispered, gripping Lucky’s hand a little tighter than necessary.

“He’s here to celebrate the end of my chemo just like everyone else.”

Scout felt equal parts rage and panic. Jim took a seat at the table and his eyes would flick to Scout occasionally but he didn’t say anything. She was pretty glad because she didn’t think a slanging match across the table was what anyone envisioned as a celebration.

Dinner was a quiet affair on Scout’s part. Jim managed to get into the conversation and Lucky was happy to talk to him. Scout didn’t know how he managed it because she was still angry and he didn’t even say those words to her. She kept her conversation to Lucky and Chris.

By the time dinner was done, Scout was exhausted from the effort of staying quiet. As everyone left the table Jim spoke to her directly.

“Scout, would it be okay if I spoke to you alone?”

Scout bit the insides of her cheeks and Lucky squeezed her hand and said, “You should speak to him.”

“Fine,” she hissed.

“Why don’t you both go through to the living room and we’ll join you when we’re done cleaning up?” Chris suggested.

She nodded at Chris and stood from her seat. She saw the way her Dad’s eyes widened at the small bump that she had and Scout instantly wrapped her arms around herself.

“I’m here if you need me,” Lucky said. He got to his feet and kissed her before she led the way into Chris’s living room with Jim following close behind.

“You’ve grown,” he said when they were alone. It sounded like she was five years old and this was the first time he’d seen her in months.

“That tends to be what happens when you’re pregnant.”

He tore his eyes away from her stomach and looked her in the eye. “Scout… I should never have said those things that day. You caught me off guard with your news.”

She scoffed and shook her head.

“Please listen to me,” Jim pleaded.

She looked back up at him, wrapping her arms around her middle. There was a war inside. Scout wanted to walk away because what could he say? The other half of her wanted to hear him out because she missed her Dad. She missed seeing him and spending time with him. She missed the fact that he hadn’t been around to see all this.

“I couldn’t wrap my head around it, love. You never spoke about having kids before and then all of a sudden you tell me you’re pregnant.”

“Things happen, Dad.”

“And… and I worry about you. I worried because of Lucky’s condition and none of us know what might happen.”

“Dad, none of us ever know what’s going to happen.”

“I only ever wanted the best for you, Scout.”

“I get that but I needed you, Dad. I was scared enough as it was. I needed you to stand by me with all this. You told me the door would always be open but you made it somewhere I didn’t think I could go without being judged.”

Jim looked ashamed of himself and Scout felt the tears burn her eyes.

“You can always come to me,” Jim whispered.

“It didn’t feel that way.”

“I’m sorry I let you down.”

Scout felt her heart crack in her chest. The anger subsided a little but it didn’t completely clear. She knew how hard her Dad had worked over the years to keep her happy and to make her proud. “You didn’t let me down, Dad. You hurt me.”

“I’m sorry, love. I never meant to do that. I’m an old fool and I hope someday you’ll be able to forgive me.”

Scout thought back to the conversation she had with Chris. Parenting had no handbook. She’d had so many conversations with Lucky during their waits at the hospital and late into the night about their fears about becoming parents for the first time. Most of the time, Scout felt in no way qualified to have a child but Lucky said they would get through it together just like they had with everything.

They’d make mistakes along the way but Scout was sure they’d find their little bundle of joy would be mad at them purely because they tried to look out for him. It didn’t mean that it came from a place of malice.

She let out a long, shuddering breath and looked at Jim. “You need to apologise to Lucky.”

“I have, love. I can’t apologise enough, Scout.”

She crossed the room, closing the gap between them and pulled her Dad into a hug. “I forgive you.”

Scout was still mad and it would take time for them to slot back into the way that they used to be but this was a start. He apologised to Lucky and Scout and they could start building bridges again.

“You really have grown.” Jim held her at arms length and looked down at her small bump. He made it seem like she’d ballooned but really it was just more noticeable now than it was before.

“He’s got plenty of growing left to do.”

“He?”

Scout clapped a hand over her mouth. Lucky and Scout had decided to know the gender of the baby so they could pick out a name but decided not to tell anyone else. “You can’t say a word.”

“I’m going to have a grandson.”

“We’re going to have a grandson, Jim.” Chris walked into the room, carrying a tray of mugs holding tea and coffee.

“You’re having a boy?” Ava asked.

“You already know?” Scout asked Chris.

Chris laughed. “My son has a big mouth.”

Lucky gave Scout a sheepish grin as he walked in behind everyone else and she narrowed her eyes at him. “You can’t give me that look, sunshine,” he told her. “You just told your Dad.”

“By accident.”

“Same here so we’re on even footing.” Scout rolled her eyes at him and he came over to her and kissed the top of her head. “Are you two both okay now?”

Scout looked at Jim for a moment and nodded. “We’re good.”

“Lucky. Son,” Jim said. “I just want to tell you again that I am very sorry for what I said.”

“Jim, it’s fine. I understand you just wanted the best for Scout but as long as I’m alive I’ll try my damn hardest to be that for her and our son.”

“I couldn’t ask for anything more for her. I told you before I’ve never seen her so happy.”

“Okay, enough now,” Scout cut in. She left them to grab a mug of tea off the tray before sitting on the arm of the chair where Chris was sitting.

“If it’s any consolation I’ve not seen my son look this happy either,” Chris agreed.

“All thanks to me,” Ava grinned.

Lucky raised an eyebrow. “Excuse me? How did you figure that one out?”

With Michael’s help, Ava settled down on the sofa. Her bump was massive at this point and Scout wasn’t sure how she managed to breathe. “I told Scout to tell you how she felt. It we’d left it up to the both of you it would have taken years with the way you two were skirting around the topic.”

“She has a point there,” Scout mused.

“Don’t take her side,” Lucky told her.

She drank from her mug and Lucky joined her side again. He rarely left it these days, hovering nearby and making sure she was okay.

“I’m meant to take yours,” Scout said.

“Always.” Lucky pulled her into him and she rested against his side. Now that things with Jim were on the mend, she felt a little more settled inside. There was a lot coming their way and it would be good to have everyone around to support them.

Scout wasn’t sure of a lot of things in her future. She’d turned from a planner to someone who had started to take each day as it came. Lucky was right when he said you couldn’t guarantee what would happen tomorrow. As much as she liked to look into the future they couldn’t know what would happen. She just hoped that whatever was written in her future that she’d be happy with it.

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