Authors: Silla Webb
Pulling into the driveway of Carly’s house, I pull my compact from my purse and do my best at concealing the red blotchy stains on my cheeks. Carly picked the kids up from school today since my meeting with Michele was late afternoon. Dragging in a steady breath, I make my way inside. The wisping sound of the blowing wind changes to the squealing tone of three excitedly loud kids and one sleepy baby. Shoes, backpacks and lunchboxes litter the entry way and a trail of toys lead from the living room into the hallway. Clear evidence that the twins and Heidi Jo have effectively done their part of destroying the house in a record time of forty five minutes.
Slipping out of my shoes I straighten up the mess, then pad softly through the hallway in search of Carly. Passing by Heidi Jo’s bedroom I see her and Brailee bouncing from one bed to the next in synchronization with the other, while Braden counts the number of jumps they’ve each taken. I think to call them down, but they’re all breathing and nobody’s bleeding, so I pull the door together and continue down the hall.
I press the nursery door lightly, peeking my head in to see Carly rocking Ryleigh gently back and forth. She has her eyes closed with a blissful smile on her face as she hums a lullaby to her precious monkey. My heart swells with an overwhelming happiness for my little sister. I don’t know all the demons she’s faced to get where she is now, but her courage and strength inspire me to continue my own fight. Sensing my presence, she opens her eyes and her smile broadens reaching her eyes. She pats Ryleigh’s tush as she stands and carries her over to the crib to lay her down before tip-toeing from the room.
After giving a stern look to the three wild brats in Heidi Jo’s room, Carly waves me behind her and into the living room. “Coffee?” She asks over her shoulder. I nod, taking a seat on the couch. She returns to the living room, and her eyebrow quirks up in concern. She takes a seat at the opposite end of the couch and pulls the cup to her lips, eyeing me cautiously.
“Ryleigh seems to be doing well, how about Momma?” I ask, trying to dissuade Carly’s curious stare. Ryleigh is about two weeks old and is already spoiled.
“She’s doing wonderfully. It’s still a battle with Colton to have him put her in the crib to sleep. Since I refuse to let her sleep in the bed, he intentionally falls asleep with her on his chest in the recliner each night.” She covers her mouth to stifle back her laughter. “Last night I woke up to an empty bed, so I got up to check on the girls thinking Ryleigh had woke up and I hadn’t heard her. Colton was stretched out on the couch with Ryleigh asleep on his chest and Heidi Jo overlapping his legs. Cereal bowls and a bottle were on the coffee table so I guess when Ryleigh woke up hungry they all decided it was time for a midnight snack.”
“Aww, he loves his baby girls, Carly. At least he let you sleep. Most men wouldn’t even roll over to acknowledge a screaming baby. You’re blessed, Sis. Colton’s a great daddy.” I miss that. That comforting protection of a loving daddy. Josh may have never been the best husband, but an amazing father he truly was. He didn’t always spare much time to spend with the kids, but his eyes always lit up with love and adoration each time he saw their faces or heard the slight mention of their names.
“Very blessed.” Carly replies, proudly. “Colton should be here in a few minutes with dinner.”
“Thanks, Sis, but I’ll get the kids out of your hair and go on home. I appreciate you watching them for me. I know handling two more ain’t no easy task.”
“Ha! What are you talking about? I’m Super Mom. Two more smart mouth kids are no match for me. Did you see how quick they quietened down when I glanced into the bedroom? Y’all are stayin’ for dinner.” She giggles proudly. She does seem to be handling this new mom experience so much better than I expected. I was secretly hoping she’d experienced a meltdown or two at the very least by now.
Just then a loud rumble fills the air and Carly bounces up to her feet to greet Colton by the door. I can’t help to roll my eyes at her. Holy hell woman, you’re married to the man, that first date shit’s done long gone.
This is not jealousy.
Carly pushes the door open for Colton, taking the pizzas from his hands and planting a kiss on his lips before he even has the chance to cross over the threshold
. Eye roll.
He kicks his coal laden boots off on the porch, then heads straight towards the bathroom to get cleaned up, tipping his head up in my direction as he passes by.
The screen door pulls open again and Luke steps inside, shoving his hands inside his pockets. He glances over to Carly and says, “No welcome home kiss for me, beauts?” He chuckles, making light of his brazen comment that he’d certainly not have made had Colton not just cleared the room. Carly shoots him that infamous resting bitch face she always seems to keep in place and says, “Sorry ass-wipe, maybe Savannah can help ya out there.” She points in my direction, with a shit eatin’ grin spreading across her face. “Bout the closest your lips will be gettin’ to me is on my ass.” Luke’s surprised eyes fall on mine; he obviously hadn’t noticed I was here. We’re both left picking our slack jaws up from the floor.
“Bitch!” I mutter under my breath in disbelief. Can’t believe she called me out like that.
“What was that, Sis?” She asks, not hiding her laughter.
Luke kicks his boots off, but continues to stand in the entry way with his arm braced along the door frame. He tips his head down as a boyish grin meets his eyes, “Hey sweetheart.”
“Hey.” I call out, making my way into the kitchen trying to hide the tremble of nerves that blanket over me in Luke’s presence. I wish I could shake them away, but they only seem to grow in intensity as time passes. Let me just say y’all, I never dreamed I’d have a crush at the age of twenty eight. But that can be our little secret. I’m sure my feelings are more noticeable than I’d like to believe, but I’m still an unhappily married woman and from the looks of things I will be for a very long, agonizing time.
“What’s that?” Luke’s deep voice startles me and I jump realizing he’s directly behind me.
“What?” I ask sheepishly.
“You muttered something under your breath. What was it?” He asks, inching closer to me. My breath hitches in my throat as he draws closer, and I freeze pressing my hands against the counter. He reaches over me, grabbing a stack of plates from the cabinet.
“You’re too cute, Sav.” He chuckles as he turns to set the table. Cute?
Pretty sure I heard him tell Brailee and Heidi Jo they were cute once. Way to knock my ego down to size,
Luke must catch me talkin’ to myself out loud. He takes two strides towards me, grips my hand in his, and draws it up to his lips pressing a smooth kiss to the inside of my wrist. “Beautiful.” He whispers effortlessly, inching closer to me. “Forgive me?”
My eyes widen in shock, and I jerk my hand from his grasp. His touch is like electricity humming through my body. As often as I find myself curling into his side without thinking,
touch is completely different. Uninhibited, unadulterated, unabashed.
A voice clears, interrupting this awkward private moment between us and I dip my head shamefully. “Y’all need a minute? Because by all means, I don’t give a damn if my pizza gets cold so y’all can playfully flirt in my frickin’ kitchen.” Colton’s brow quirks up as he eyes Luke warily, but Luke pays him no mind.
I pick away at my pizza as the kids ramble on about their day at school. Once they’ve filled their tummies and left the table, Carly turns towards me, shooting me a glance as her great inquisition sets sail. “What did Michele have to say today?”
Blowing out a rushed breath, I can feel a thick heat spread over my cheeks. “Not much for subtleties, are ya Sis?”
“What is there to be subtle about, Savannah? It’s not like we don’t all sympathize with what you’re going through.” And there it is…the kid gloves that everyone carefully slips on while handling me in any situation. I guess it’s well earned, however. At this stage in my life, I’m certain my eight year old daughter has more inner strength than I have.
“First of all, I’m not a fragile porcelain doll. I know everyone is concerned about me, but I really am trying to keep it together.” I lie through my teeth, and I know as soon as the words leave my lips that Carly and Colton may buy it, but Luke doesn’t. “Josh doesn’t want to sign the divorce petition. Not until I visit with him, at least.” Carly huffs out an exasperated breath while Colton’s demeanor shifts into pure rage. Luke’s head dips low as an abundance of mixed emotions flood his eyes. “Michele seems to think it’s a good idea. Gain the upper hand by showing Josh that I’m not fearful of him and he can’t hold my life in his grip any longer.”
“She’s an idiot. You can’t possibly consider seein’ him, Savannah.” Colton’s voice booms, his shoulders squared tautly and seeing his rage of emotion to keep my family protected makes me feel safer. Static crackles followed by Ryleigh’s soft whimpers. Luke nods to Carly before disappearing through the hall into the nursery.
Carly Jo grips his hand and glances over at me, worry marring her eyes. “Savannah, I agree with Colton. I don’t think you need to be in the same room with him. There has to be other options for getting the divorce finalized.”
Tension throbs in my temple as the stress gnaws at me. I didn’t want to get into this tonight. I was hoping to push it to the back of my mind until I could clear my head and consider all the options. I have to consider what’s best for the kids. “It’s really just all up in the air. I have a fifty-fifty chance that the judge could grant the divorce considering the charges that Josh faces, but he does have every right to fight me. The divorce could take as little as sixty days to finalize, or as long as a few years.” My voice rises an octave and the fear of being held captive by Josh for a second longer strangles the breath from my lungs. “I don’t have years. I can’t. I won’t.” My voice breaks again not able to find the words to even finish my statement. I shove back the chair quickly to walk outside. I need air.
One, two, three, four, five. One, two, three, four, five. His fingers are so tiny. His little face scrunches up, turning red before he visibly relaxes in my hands and sighs a shaky breath. “Luke, ya alright over there?” Alyson asks, pulling me from the blank trance I’m in.
“Wonderful, honey.” I whisper, barely able to take my eyes from the small life I cradle in my hands. I’m awestruck in absolute astonishment at how one tiny little body can change my entire outlook on life by simply takin’ a breath.
“Luke, you can lay him in the bassinette, or I can hold him.” Alyson says. I’m sure she’s worried about my unusual demeanor, but to be honest I’ve struggled these last nine months coming to terms with the epic changes we were facing. We weren’t prepared to become parents. We’re still young, still tryin’ to get on our feet. Hell, most months we scrape by to pay the rent and knowing we are now responsible for another tiny human life…well that’s just enough to shake the fear from anyone. I can’t tell ya the number of nights I’ve paced the floor filled with worry. But somehow, the moment my eyes met my son’s everything felt right in the world.
Standin’ up, I approached the hospital bed and Alyson opens her arms on instinct, vying to hold our sweet boy. Placing Sawyer in her arms she swaddles him close to her chest, then scoots over allowin’ me room to sit. My lips tug up naturally and I realize that not once has there been in any doubt in Alyson’s eyes. Somehow, I find comfort in knowin’ that although we may struggle with money and we don’t have any experience in the parental department, I know we’ll weather any storm life brings us to, together.