I laugh as Summer drags Avery away to her room. She’s so proud of the space Evan did up for her. I feel light and happy in a way I usually only feel when I’m alone with Avery. I know it has everything to do with the fact that I’m home. Not home as in New York. This place hasn’t been home to me in a long fucking time. Home in a way that I’m with my people, my ride or die bitches, my family. Home is not a place in the world. It’s a place in your heart, and mine is wherever I’m together with all my people.
“What’s going on with Avery?” Brooke asks with a slight frown. I smile at her worry. It means she loves her already.
“I’ll tell you later. What do you think of her?” I ask as we walk to the living room and sit on the couch.
“I love her. She’s genuine and I think you need that in a partner,” Brooke answers.
“She really is different from Kendra,” Evan says.
“Avery is different from anyone I’ve ever known, and I love it. She’s funny and sweet. She knows how to take a joke. She’s sarcastic. It’s like she has all the best qualities of everyone I love wrapped on in one perfect for me person,” I say and I know I have a stupid dreamy smile on my face but fuck if I care.
“You sound hopelessly in love with her, Noah,” Evan jokes, but I can tell he’s happy for me.
“I don’t know about it being hopeless, but in love? Yeah, abso-fucking-lutely.”
Summer and Avery come out of the bedroom and any tears she might have had are long gone. Instead, she has a big smile on her face. Pretty much everyone who comes into contact with Summer has that expression. The only thing her life-givers did good by her, was her name. It’s perfect.
“We just had a tea party, and she showed me her very impressive Frozen doll collection. Now she says it’s time for dinner,” Avery says, looking after the girl who’s running into the dining room.
Brooke and Evan follow their daughter so they can go set the table. I take Avery’s hand and pull her to my chest. I look down at her, happiness swelling in my chest. I lean in and kiss her once quickly before Summer pokes her head back into the hallway we’re standing in.
“Are you coming? Dinner is ready.”
“Coming!” I call.
I take Avery’s hand and we take our seats. Mrs. G brings our dinner out to the table. The pan has steam coming off the top and it smells delectable. Definitely better than anything I could hope to cook.
“This smells fucking amazing, Mrs. G. Thank you,” I say, closing my eyes as I inhale.
“Thank you, honey. If you guys are set, I’m off. Bye, dears,” Mrs. G says kissing the top of Summer’s head as she exits.
The door opens then closes and we’re about to dig into whatever wonderful thing Mrs. G made when the door bursts open and hits the wall behind it. I bark out a laugh at Brooke’s scrunched nose. Kristie is in the house. It’s confirmed when she shout-sings,
“The party has arrived!”
“You don’t need to break my fucking house to announce your arrival!” Evan shouts back as we all get up from the table to greet the newcomers.
They would show up just as we’re about to have dinner. Now it’s going to be cold by the time the greetings are all finished. Avery grips my hand in nervousness. I kiss her forehead with a smile. She gives me a nervous one back and we follow everyone to the front door.
“What’s shakin’ bitches!?” Kristie shouts opening her arms to hug Brooke then Evan. “Shit, Noah, you look… happy. What could possibly be the cause?”
“You’re looking at her. Kristie, this is Avery. Avery, this is Kris, craziest and loudest of all of us,” I introduce.
“I’ll take the crown for the craziest bitch in the house, but you’re the loudest. At least you used to be,” Kris says to me, grabbing Avery by each shoulder and looking her up and down. She’s got a serious expression on her face as she appraises my girl.
Avery looks uncomfortable, so I’m about to end whatever the fuck Kristie is doing, but then a satisfied smile creeps on Kristie’s face and she nods once before pulling Avery into a bone-crushing hug.
“Nice to meet you, beautiful. I love your outfit,” Kris says as he pulls back kissing Avery full on the mouth.
Avery’s eyes pop open comically in surprise. Kristie lets her go to give me my hug, finally. Avery touches her fingers to her lips, still in shock. I give Kris a dirty look when she pulls back.
“What the fuck was that? You were all over Brooke the night you met and now you kiss my fucking girl. Jesus, learn to get your own,” I say with a scowl, but really I don’t care. This is Kristie and I wouldn’t love her if she were anyone but exactly who she is.
“My way of welcoming them to the family. Now they know we good.”
“Sweets! Bring your normal over here!” I shout, shouldering Kristie aside to get to my Sweets.
I pull Allie into a hug, rivaling a bear. I missed her so much more than I realized now that her short little self is right in front of me with the little smile she wears all the time.
“It’s good to see you again, babe,” I say to her as I pull away from the hug.
“You too. Now introduce me to your girlfriend,” Allie says, patting my cheek.
“You already know each other. According to Avery, you’re friends already,” I reply.
I hold out my hand for Avery. Her tiny, warm hand slips into mine and I practically pull her into my side. My arm slides around her shoulders and I kiss her temple.
“Avery, this is Allie. You apparently talk all the time, but here she is. Sweets, this is Avery,” I introduce.
Allie gives Avery a hug around my arms and body. She doesn’t dare try to take her from me the way Kristie almost certainly would.
“It’s so great to finally meet you in person. All of you, really. I know how important you are to Noah, so I’ve been equal parts excited and nervous to meet you,” Avery says looking at each person.
Everyone in the room is wearing a smile. No one ever smiled at Kendra in all the years we were together, so I know this is already going better. For once, my friends love who I’m with. I never noticed how important that is to me until now.
“Can we finish dinner now? I’m starving,” Brooke complains.
“Yes, please,” Avery says quietly.
I chuckle as I grab her hand. We follow everyone back into the dining room. Allie and Kristie take the empty seats and plate up their food.
“Ugh, this is cold!” Kristie exclaims after taking her first bite.
“It’s your fault!” Evan cries.
“It was hot then you came crashing through the door.”
“Whatever. Don’t make excuses for your shitty hosting skills,” Kristie grumbles taking another bite of food.
Evan looks like he should have steam coming out of his ears. I laugh to myself. Kristie has the unique ability to make pretty much anyone she meets lose their shit if she feels so inclined. She just does it to fuck with people.
I look to Avery, searching her face. I want to tell my friends our news. I was waiting for everyone to get here so we could do it all at once. I’m so excited to share it, I feel like bursting. Now that we’re all in the same room for the first time with Brooke’s and Evan’s wedding, it feels right.
Avery must know what I’m searching for because she gives me a small, slightly nervous smile and nods her head just a fraction. That’s all the okay I need. Everyone is talking to each other to I have to raise my voice a little to be heard over the buzz of conversation.
“Guys! Avery and I have some news we’d like to share,” I say. All conversation dies and everyone looks at me with wide eyes.
“Did you propose? Are you getting married?” Brooke asks, her smile warming.
“No, we’re not engaged or getting married. At least not yet. I’d like to be one day if Avery agrees. But no, that’s not our news. Avery is pregnant. We’re having a baby!”