It’s so quiet, I swear I could hear a pin drop. Everyone is staring at Noah like he’s an accident you just can’t look away from. I can’t tell if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. The nervous butterflies in my stomach make an appearance as I wait for Noah’s friends to say something… anything, really.
All at once, everyone breaks into squeals, loud congratulations, and shouted questions. Everyone’s smiling, so I assume no one is mad about the situation.
“Summer’s getting a cousin,” Brooke squeals.
“How far along are you?” Allie asks.
“Welcome to fatherhood, man!” Evan says as he gets up from the table to embrace his best friend.
“How the fuck did this happen?” That was Kristie. The words make it seem like she’s upset, but she’s smiling and damn near jumping up and down with Allie in excitement.
“Well Kris, when a mommy and a daddy love each other very much, they fuck. This sometimes leads to babies,” Noah responds.
I glance at Summer, worrying about her little ears. That seems like a thing I need to worry about now. She’s smiling though, probably from the general atmosphere rather than actually knowing what’s going on. Otherwise, she’s oblivious to what’s being said.
“I’m about thirteen weeks along now. It’s the last week of the first trimester,” I answer Allie.
“Were you not using protection?” Kristie asks, sounding incredulous.
“I was on birth control. It failed, I guess.”
“Jesus, Kris. We aren’t kids anymore. It’s not an unplanned teen pregnancy that’s going to derail our lives. It was unplanned, sure, but we’re adults capable of raising a child. She also didn’t get pregnant on purpose to trap me either, if that’s what you’re wondering. She’s not fucking Kendra,” Noah says almost on a growl. He’s scowling at Kristie and everyone else looks on in interested silence.
“I’m just covering my bases, Noah. I love you, dude. Don’t hate on me for that. Congratulations, you guys. I am happy for you,” she answers, raising her hands in a calming gesture.
“So, you said earlier you aren’t getting engaged or married,” Evan prompts.
“Nope. We decided we don’t want to do it because we have to or because it’s expected. Getting married changes nothing about the situation. We will do it when we feel it’s the right time. We’ve already moved Avery’s stuff into my place and made room for a nursery. The baby is due in June,” Noah explains, grabbing my hand.
I instantly relax from his touch. Kristie was a bit abrasive, but I get it. She’s looking out for Noah. I don’t blame her. Everyone is happy for us, so I count that as a win. It feels so nice to tell someone the news and have them be happy for me instead of insulting me like my mother. I mean, Rachel and Holly took it fine. They were excited for me, if not a little relieved I wasn’t trying to bring a screaming baby back to their home.
After everyone’s calmed down about the baby news, we’re finally able to finish dinner. I’m so hungry, I don’t even care it’s cold by now. Everyone is talking across the table, mostly about the pregnancy.
“That explains all the crying earlier. I was afraid we did something wrong. I don’t want to scare you off. Noah finally has someone good in his life. I don’t want to be responsible for fucking it up,” Brooke whispers to me with a nudge to my shoulder.
“Yeah, sorry about that. My emotions seem to be all over the place lately. I didn’t even find out I was pregnant until the weekend before Thanksgiving, so this news is still fresh for us too. Noah was so excited to share the news with you guys, but he wanted to wait until we were all together in person. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that I’m growing a tiny person inside my body.”
“I can’t even imagine what that feels like. It’s crazy what our bodies are capable of,” Brooke says.
“The baby is the size of a pea pod right now. I have this app on my phone that tells me all sorts of things each week. Apparently, the baby has fingerprints already. Do you want to have more kids?”
“Yes, someday. Kids were not really on our minds. Noah probably told you about our unconventional marriage, so we were more worried about making that work and falling in love with each other before we even thought to think about kids. Summer sort of fell into our lap. She might not have grown in my body and I might not have given birth to her, but she’s ours. She was the moment I found her in that street. I fell in love with her instantly, like I imagine a mother does with her newborn. I already believed in love at first sight because I knew I loved Evan the first time I ever saw him, but this what something else, something indescribable. Then we had a lot of other stuff to worry about. Now that we’re in a good place, we might revisit more children. Summer needs a sibling. You’ll have to tell me how bad the birthing process is. We might just adopt more,” she explains with a light laugh.
Hearing Brooke talk about Summer makes me excited to meet my baby. I rub a hand over my still flat stomach. Noah glances at me and smiles when he sees the action. He squeezes my thigh and I sigh. It’s all so real now that we’ve told people. It was real the minute I saw the lines on the pregnancy tests, but now it’s been spoken into the universe. There are other people cheering on our little blob from the sidelines. There are people besides Noah and me who will miss it if something happens.
“We should party tonight. Celebrate little Baby Whittier. Wait! Are you giving it Noah’s last name?” Kristie asks.
“Yes. I figure we’ll get married at some point so might as well give the baby the Whittier last name. I don’t want it to be different later,” I reply with a smile.
“Let’s celebrate Baby Whittier, then!”
“Avery can’t drink. Besides, it’s Summer’s birthday party tomorrow. She’s in school now, so there’s going to be like twenty kids here,” Brooke says.
“She has that many friends?”
“Summer didn’t want to leave anyone out, so she invited her entire class,” Brooke answers.
“Aww, my baby is so sweet. Summer, get over here!” Kristie yells.
I can hear Summer giggling like crazy as Kristie meanders her way through everyone to find the little girl. A loud burst of laughter echoes around the space when Kristie finally catches up with her. The sound of it does something to my insides.
“It’s bedtime, Summer!” Evan shouts over the noise.
“Can Noah read my bedtime story? It’s been ages,” Summer asks.
“Ask him if you want him to do it,” Evan replies.
“Noah, Avery, can you read my bedtime story?” she asks, coming to stand right in front of me.
“Sure thing, my princess,” Noah responds, grabbing Summer under the arms to lift her up into the air. She squeals for the second she’s suspended in the air, then giggles when he catches her again.
I follow Noah into the purple bedroom with the princess bed. Like this is something he’s done a million times, Noah walks to the giant dresser and pulls out a drawer. He selects one of many nightgowns with Olaf and Sven on it.
Summer peels her clothes off until she’s left in her underwear, then Noah quickly pulls the dress over her head. He gently takes her hair out of the braid it was in. Most of her hair was falling out, anyway. After that, she climbs into bed, patting one side of it for me to sit. Noah goes to the bookcase. He spends a minute going through the millions of books she has. He finally picks one, then comes to lie on the other side of the bed until Summer is squished between the two of us in a warm little bundle.
Noah reads about some princess named Sofia. I’ve never heard of her, but apparently, she can talk to animals and only became a princess after her mom married the king. She acquired a brother and sister. I’m barely listening, but I can hear Noah change voices for the different characters making Summer giggle.
Instead, I sit here imagining this exact scene but in our house with a racecar bed instead of a princess bed. I don’t know why that popped into my mind, but I guess I kinda want a boy. I mean, it doesn’t really matter one way or the other as long as it’s healthy, but even if it’s not, I’ll still love it with everything I’ve got.
I’m still daydreaming about our very near future when I catch Noah smiling at me. I startle when I realize he’s been finished with the book for a while and Summer’s fast asleep.
“Whatcha thinking about?” he asks as he gets up from the bed, careful not to disturb Summer.
“You reading to our child soon. You’re going to be such a wonderful dad,” I reply when he takes my hand.
Noah shuts off the light and closes the door softly. I can hear the thrum of conversation from the living room. Noah doesn’t lead me there just yet. It seems he knows I need a minute alone with him to catch my breath because he stops after a few steps and pulls me toward him until my head rests against his chest. I wind my arms around his trim waist and inhale deeply. His scent makes my body tingle and I feel so content right here. In a world I never quite felt like I fit into, Noah’s arms are where I’m meant to be.