He rounded the corner and handed me a mango protein smoothie, “If you already ate, you don’t have to drink that.”
I did, but I was already hungry again and greedily sucked down some of the delicious icy mix. “Thank you.” I said with a moan.
Brandon laughed and rubbed my stomach, “What’s up buddy?”
“He’s feisty this morning.” I took another sip and started braiding my hair over the top of my head and down to the side, putting the long length back in a messy bun before grabbing my cup again. “How are you?” My eyes met his in the mirror and he didn’t answer at first.
“I’m good.” His husky voice was soft. He offered his hand and helped me stand up, wrapping an arm around me, “How are you Harper?”
“I–I’m fine.” I glanced at his chest rapidly rising and falling, then his mouth and finally back to his eyes, “Thanks for coming today.”
“I’ll always be here.” His fingers brushed along my bare neck and he leaned down slowly.
“Brandon, don’t.” I pleaded.
He stopped abruptly and removed his arms as he took a few steps away, “I’ll uh, be downstairs.”
“Yeah?” His back was still turned to me.
“I can’t be with you.” I want to so bad, you’ll never have any idea how bad, “We can’t keep doing this to each other.”
“I know, I just…I know.” He sighed and walked out of my room.
“I love you so much.” I whispered once the door was shut.
After a few minutes, I walked downstairs and cursed myself for putting my hair up when my cheeks heated at the sight of him. He smiled softly and gestured for me to join him at the table where he was playing cards with Konrad and Bree.
“Hey guys, good morning.” I rubbed my stomach and sat next to Brandon, when the other two went back to their conversation, I grabbed his hand and leaned into his side, “Please don’t be mad at me. I just can’t do it.”
He rubbed his thumb over the top of my hand, squeezed it and let it go, “I’m not mad at you, I’m frustrated that I can’t stop making you uncomfortable.”
If only you knew how much I wanted you to kiss me, “Don’t be hard on yourself. Let’s just go back to how we’ve been, okay?”
“Alright.” He attempted a smile and peaked at my cards, “Thank God we’re not playing with money.”
“That bad?” I grimaced but was glad for his change of subject and mood.
“Bad? Harper, you don’t even have a pair. So yeah, it’s bad.” He smiled wider and that dimple flashed at me.
My breath caught. If I was smart or selfless, I would ask him to leave right now and not come back. But I was the opposite of both, I needed him more than I was willing to admit to myself, and I wanted him here even if I had to ignore my feelings.
The hardest parts over the next month had been clearing out Chase’s station at the shop, and packing up his room at each house. I found the ring he had been planning on proposing with, but couldn’t bring myself to open the white box. I’d handed it off to Bree so fast, and she’d left the room before looking in it. Mom and Bree put it in a safe; we’d all agreed to keep it, even though I still refused to look at it. Other than those times, our hearts all continued to heal and grow stronger, right along with my little gummy bear. He and my stomach were both measuring bigger than the thirty weeks I was, as of today, and Dr. Lowdry was now positive I wouldn’t make it the full forty weeks. Bree put a basketball in her shirt, and I was still bigger than that. I had frowned when I saw the picture, but everyone laughed and said I was the cutest pregnant woman they’d seen. My legs and arms hadn’t changed a bit, my h*ps were not even a fraction of an inch wider, the only difference was my chest and stomach. To prove their point, they took a picture of my back, I looked like normal Harper again…until I turned to the side or faced front. We were all making bets for when the baby would be born, Mom said August twenty-third, Dad and I said September third – which was Labor Day – mostly as a joke, Brandon’s vote was September fifteenth and Bree and Konrad thought I should have to go the full forty weeks plus some with October eighth. The majority of our time together was spent with at least one person’s hands on me, since Gummy Bear was constantly dancing, rolling around and practicing karate in my belly.
Mom and Dad were taking a lot of weekend trips lately, and Breanna and Konrad were almost never seen without the other. Though we were all healing and fully back into our normal lives, everyone was still very aware of how fragile life was, and were always trying to spend it with their significant other. With that in mind, each one of us, including Konrad and Brandon, had tried contacting Sir in some way to see if he would take back his words and let me into his life. Not one of us had gotten through or heard back from him. Two weeks ago, I had finally told everyone to just stop. Sir was stubborn and he wasn’t going to change just because six people hounded him for a few weeks.
Mom and Bree were having way too much fun picking out clothes and nursery items for Gummy Bear, and buying maternity clothes for me. I was like their own personal life-size doll. I didn’t complain though, it was fun and it made them so happy, so I continued to go along with everything. The only time the extended family could get together was Fourth of July, so we’d had an early baby shower when they were all in town for Mom and Dad’s annual party. The only girls I’d been friends with other than Bree had all graduated at the beginning of June, so there weren’t a ton of women at the shower, but we’d all had so much fun and being surrounded by Chase’s family was more perfect than I could have hoped for. We’d invited Brandon’s mom, but she and Jeremy had flown back to Arizona for two weeks to spend with her family, and today would be my first time seeing her since right after Christmas.
Brandon continued to come every day and despite what we were both so obviously wanting, always kept it on a friendly level. Not saying that wasn’t hard, but it’s what we had to do. We hadn’t brought up the day at the beach or my bathroom again, and he seemed happy just to be around. Every time I saw him he’d give me a hug, bend down so his face was almost pressed to my swollen belly and greet the baby. Sometimes just a ‘Hello’ and ‘How are you treating your momma today?’, and others he’d give a full recap of his and Konrad’s morning surfing. It made my heart warm and stomach flip, but I wouldn’t tell him that.
Like I’d suspected, Brandon was fighting again, and though I hated it, I kept my mouth shut. It wasn’t my place, and it gave him a thrill and paid his bills, so who was I to voice my opinion? He still hadn’t lost a fight, and thank God hadn’t been back to the hospital. That didn’t mean there wasn’t a new bruise or cut brow every now and then though. Jeremy, Konrad, Bree and I went to every fight, I would sit there shaking and cringing until it was over, and after he’d showered and changed, would inspect his new injuries if there were any. Brandon laughed every time but let me do my inspections without complaint.
Breanna, Mom and I were coming back from another wonderful appointment of seeing my bear and getting a pedicure when my heart rate doubled. Brandon’s Jeep was already in the driveway, and I couldn’t wait to see him and show him the new ultrasound pictures. What was coming later, seeing his mom again, I definitely wasn’t thrilled for. I’d cheated on Brandon weeks after last seeing her, and I’m sure she didn’t like the fact that Brandon and I were friends again. I forced myself to walk slowly to the house, but I don’t think I was fooling Mom or Bree. As soon as I was through the door, Brandon was hugging me and reaching for the pictures.
“Look at him! He was asleep, but look at him sucking his thumb!” I exclaimed. Mom and Bree giggled when they passed us. Yeah, not fooling them.
He dropped down to a squat and put his hands tenderly on my stomach, “Hey little man!” Brandon’s deep husky voice was warm and melodic whenever he spoke to him. “How could you sleep through the whole appointment, huh? Your momma was hoping to see you moving around today. Next time, right buddy?”
I watched the one sided conversation, biting my lip to keep from grinning like an idiot. Brandon would be such a good father. Whoa. Where did that come from? Don’t go down that road Harper.
Brandon stood back up and absentmindedly began tracing shapes along my stomach. “What did Dr. Lowdry say?”
“She said everything’s great!” That was another thing, he always asked how I felt and how the appointments went. Even Konrad and Dad didn’t do that, “I go back in another two weeks, she said he’s still big, so there’s a possibility she’s going to put me on bedrest after my next appointment to try to keep him in there as long as possible.”
“Bedrest?” His hazel eyes looked worried, “But she said everything is okay?”
I smoothed out his furrowed brow, and stared at his eyes. I’d finally figured them out. They were brown if he was shirtless, or wearing a brown or white shirt. Gray if he was wearing a black or gray shirt. Green was pretty self-explanatory, he had to be wearing green, and any other color would make his eyes the perfect mix of the three. “It’s fine, don’t worry about it. If I have to, it’s just to make sure he doesn’t come too early.” He still looked nervous, “So! How about we go see your mom?”
After a few moments, all the worry left his eyes and a slow unsure smile spread across his face, “I have something for you, Harper.”
“Really? What is it?”
He took my hand and started walking me down the hall, “Promise me something, if you don’t like it, you have to tell me.”
“I’m sure I’ll love it…you have it in the nursery?” I asked confused when we walked up to the door.
“I promise.” I squeezed his hand tight and opened the door. I didn’t have to search around for it, or them should I say. “Oh my God. Brandon. Did you buy these?” Yes, I know that was a stupid question, but I couldn’t believe this.
“Is that okay?”
“No, I mean yes, it is. But Brandon, that’s a lot of money!” There was a dark cherry wood crib, dresser, changing table and a large leather glider chair. I remembered how much Brandon made from winning those fights, but I knew exactly how much these all cost since I was planning on buying them myself, and they definitely weren’t cheap.
He shrugged, “I just need to know if you like them.”
“I do, I absolutely love them.” He’d even put the bedding in the crib that I’d bought. “You shouldn’t be spending your money on this.” I walked over to touch everything and picked up one of the baby blankets Bree had bought and draped it back over the edge of the crib.
Brandon came up behind me and turned me so I was facing him, “I wanted to do this for you.”
“But that is really expensive Brandon.”
“Harper,” he smiled softly at me, “please don’t worry about it.”
I smiled and took a quick glance around me again, “Did you put them all together by yourself?”
He nodded, “Bree texted me as soon as you guys left this morning. I had just finished when she said you guys were down the street.”