#79 Haunted by the ghost of relationship past
Shopping for baby clothes is my new favorite pastime. During Andre’s short lunch break, I meet up with him at Marigold’s Blooming Baby Store only a block from his coffee shop. With Deidra now 30 weeks pregnant, we’ve already got everything we could ever need for our son, but we keep buying extra stuff. I can’t help myself. Those tiny onesies are too damn cute.
When a song we both love sounds over the speakers in the store, Andre twirls me around and then pulls me in for a kiss. I melt into him, already dreaming about tomorrow, when he will finally become my husband.
“I love you,” Andre murmurs, his eyes blazing with love.
I pepper his face with kisses. “I missed you all damn morning even though I knew I’d see you here.”
Yeah, we’re sappy. Big-ass cheeseballs. I love it.
“Well, hello there,” a deep voice says behind us. “Getting it on in a baby store?”
I break away from Andre to discover Chase and Kyle looking at us. “What are you guys doing here?”
“Picking out cute onesies for Andre Junior,” Chase replies, holding up a red one with little black hearts all over it.
“We passed the store on our way to the bakery to pick up a birthday cake for Chase’s mom,” Kyle explains, adding in a stage whisper: “I think Chase is just trying to show off his ring wherever he can. He already showed it to the salespeople in three stores so far. We picked it up this morning. Custom made.”
Chase is glowing when he holds up the huge engagement ring that puts mine to shame. He’s lucky to have nabbed a rich lawyer boyfriend, or he wouldn’t be able to have such an extravagant ring. It looks a bit like mine, only way bigger and flashier.
“Beautiful,” Andre says, his fingers intertwining with mine. “Did you set a date yet?”
“Two years from now,” Chase replies like that’s not an awfully long time to be engaged. “We realized after one talk with Derrek that one year is just not enough to arrange for the kind of wedding we want.”
“The kind of wedding you want,” Kyle corrects him. “I would be fine just getting married in our backyard, or at the courthouse.”
“Hush.” Chase puts a finger on Kyle’s lips. “Don’t make me want to slap you.”
The four of us peruse the store for ten more minutes, and the guys insist on buying something for the baby, who they keep calling Andre Junior. Marigold, who owns the store, knows us by name by now, and she chats with us happily as we pay for everything we don’t need but desperately want.
“We’ll walk with you to the bakery,” I tell Kyle and Chase. “I need to drop my man off at work anyway before I head to Thom’s to work on an app for a new client.”
“Your almost-husband,” Chase teases. “I can’t believe we’re not even invited to the wedding.”
“No one is, except for our best men and women,” Andre reminds them.
Since we’re getting married at the courthouse for the baby, Imani and Deidra are going to be there with us. I refuse to get married without our unborn baby present. We also can’t possibly get married without Ivan and Thomas. Other than those four, we haven’t invited anyone, not even our families. I want the big bash we’re having in a year to be our real wedding, the one everyone will talk about for the rest of our lives. Not the small ceremony to change our last names. Our parents are very chill about that, thank God.
“Oh shit,” Kyle says suddenly. “Erm, we should turn left.”
“But it’s a shorter walk if we take a right.” I motion to the other side of the street. “Did you forget where the bakery is?”
“No, but, I erm…” Kyle looks at Chase to rescue him.
“Let’s just go left,” he agrees with his fiancé.
“Look, Andre’s break is over in two minutes. We don’t have time for some ridiculous detour.” I roll my eyes at them. “You’re being weird.”
“Erm, love?” Andre’s voice is tight. “I think they have a good reason for being weird.”
I turn to find out what Andre is looking at. Finally, I see what all three of them have already. Walking down the street are Silas and Kian, holding hands as they talk to each other animatedly. Kian has his other hand firmly wrapped around the leashes of two tiny little dogs. Chihuahuas, I think.
“Well, this was bound to happen eventually.” I truly don’t feel the panic or resentment the others seem to expect from me. What the fuck do I care about Kian, right? “Hey guys!” I call before they’ve even spotted us. “Long time no see.”
Kian stops walking the second he hears my voice, his eyes meeting mine from across the street. There is nothing but terror in his eyes, but he lets Silas lead us to where we’re standing anyway.
“Hey guys,” Silas greets us easily, not uncomfortable in the least. “Oh wow, Chase, that ring is blinding!”
“Picked it up this morning,” Chase replies, holding up his hand. “Custom made. It’s inspired by the one Andre got Dylan, but better, of course.”
Kian’s eyes move to my hand, going wide when he sees the ring. I’m sure someone must have told him by now – Kyle, Silas and Kian are friends, after all. Then why does he look so stupefied?
“They’re engaged,” Kyle says, confirming that weirdly, Kian didn’t know yet.
“Oh wow, congratulations!” Silas holds out his hand to shake mine. He’s trying to act like all of this is perfectly normal, and I actually appreciate that. Kian sure isn’t.
“Thanks, we’re very happy about it,” Andre says, his arm going around my waist. “It looks like you’re recovering well, by the way. You look good.”
Right, of course. I totally forgot about all of Silas’ health issues. He does look good, healthy as ever.
“All thanks to this one,” Silas says, nudging Kian. “He takes such great care of me. Ever since he moved in with me, it’s like having a sexy private nurse.”
“You moved in with him?” I ask Kian, curious now. “Did you sell your house?”
“Yeah, I did.” Kian looks so uncomfortable it’s funny. “It didn’t feel right living there after… after… after everything. And Silas’ place is great.” His eyes now move to the bag I’m carrying with the baby store logo on it. “Oh, right, did Tracy and Thomas have their baby?”
“Months ago, and Scout is a little trooper, but this isn’t for them.” I can’t believe Kian is so out of the loop. Then again, Chase and Kyle never talk about Kian and Silas around me, so maybe they’ve kept my love story with Andre under wraps too. After the whole thing where Kyle knew Kian was cheating on me, but he never even told Chase, I understand why he might feel like he needed to do better. “This stuff is for our kid. We’re having a baby with Imani and Deidra.”
Kian makes a sound somewhere between a groan and a gasp. “You… you are…”
“Oh wow, which one of them is pregnant?” Silas asks excitedly. “Are you co-parenting?”
“Deidra, and yes, we are.” I smile at Silas’ genuine happiness for us. Maybe the guy isn’t as bad as I thought. I honestly don’t even care. I’m just grateful he’s not being as weird as his boyfriend.
“So, to sum things up…” I lock eyes with Kian. “Andre and I are living together, we’re getting married, and we’re having a baby. What’s new with you?”
“We have dogs,” Kian chokes out. “Chichi and Peanut.”
“And Kian is making name partner at the firm in a few months,” Silas adds. “I’m not back to working full time yet, but I’m getting there. Chloe and Anna are extremely patient when it comes to my recovery. These two little munchkins keep me company when my man is at work. Don’t you?” He makes a silly face at the dogs. One of them barks back, making all of us laugh.
“I’m happy you’re doing well.” I’m not just saying that, I actually mean it. Kian hurt me terribly, but I don’t want him to be unhappy. And I never wanted Silas to die, of course. In a way, I like that they’re still together. At least Kian didn’t cheat on me for a meaningless fling. He truly fell in love. He could have handled it a million times better than he did, but there is no changing the past.
“Yeah, you too,” Kian agrees. “Congratulations on the baby, the engagement, all of it.”
“I never got to thank you for being there for Kian when I had my aneurysm.” Silas’ expression is grave now. “And for sending us a fruit basket. I’m really grateful for all of that.”
“Just glad you’re okay.” I shake his hand again. “Well, erm, we should get going. We’ve got work.”
“Right, of course!” He makes a cute noise at the dogs. “Come on, munchkins. Let’s go home.”
We’re about to part ways when Kian speaks up. “Dylan, do you think we could… catch up sometime soon? Have a coffee?”
I almost tell him yes, just because that’s what everyone expects me to do, but then I change my mind. “No, thanks, I’m good.” I give him a tight smile. “I’m glad you’re doing well, but let’s not pretend we’re going to be friends, okay?”
“I just wanted to…” Kian shakes his head. “Never mind. You’re right. Have a nice… everything.”
“You have a nice everything too.” I raise my hand one last time and then tug at Andre’s hand so we can cross the street.
“I hope you didn’t say no because of me,” Andre whispers. “If you want to catch up with him, I’m cool with that. “
“I know, but I’m not.” I look over my shoulder at the two men and their dogs. “I feel like I don’t even know him anymore, and I have no interest in getting to know him all over again. I moved on. I need absolutely nothing from him.”
“I think he wanted to apologize,” Kyle says. “He still asks about you quite often, but I have strict instructions from Chase to keep my mouth shut, so I haven’t told him anything. He feels terrible about how he treated you.”
“As he should.” I shrug, not sure how to explain what’s on my mind. “That’s his problem though, isn’t it? Not mine. I don’t need an apology from him. My life is awesome, and I’ve put him all the way in the past. He hardly even crosses my mind anymore, and when he does, it’s only to realize how much happier I am with Andre than I ever was with Kian. The only person who can gain something from us having coffee together is Kian. Not me. And guess what? I don’t owe him anything.”
“Hear hear,” Chase chimes in. “And Kyle, I don’t think I need to say it, right?”
“You’ll cut off my balls and make me eat them if I ever do to you what Kian did to Dylan.” He laughs and gives Chase a kiss. “I know, babe. Don’t you worry.”
When we finally reach the bakery and Andre and I kiss goodbye, I feel like I’m on cloud nine. I meant what I said. I don’t owe Kian anything, and I’m happier than I’ve ever been before. Seeing Kian doesn’t bring back nasty memories of how hurt I once was. It only makes me more appreciative of the amazing man I get to come home to every single day, the father of my unborn baby boy, the love of my life. My almost-husband.
“You handled that like the king you are,” Andre says with a proud look on his face. “Tell Thom I said hi, okay? And that we’d love to babysit if he and Tracy need a night to themselves.”
“Will do.” I give him one last kiss, and then I’m off.
As I drive over to Thom’s, I find myself singing along to the radio, grinning like a madman. I know it’s not a competition, but I totally won the meeting with the ex, didn’t I? Not because I’m engaged and about to become a father, but because I’m unaffected by seeing him, while he looked at me like he saw a ghost. I still haunt him, but he most definitely doesn’t haunt me anymore.
Take that, Kian.