Chapter 7: Not So Bad

Saturday, I borrowed my mother’s car for the barbecue at the Hanson’s house. If necessary, I wanted to be able to make a quick escape.

The Hanson’s owned a massive compound on the other side of town which occupied several acres of land. I had been there several times, but never in my current predicament. I was very quickly falling in love with Isaac and in the mean time I was about to show up to his parents house with his brother’s child.

I glanced at Lily in the rear view mirror. She was busily playing with one of her foam picture books. I had dressed her in a light pink dress, and pulled her blonde curls into twin pig tails.

My mother had made a fuss over us, insisting she take our picture, but I knew that if the day went south, I didn’t want the day preserved in picture.

I had worn a light green summer dress, which was strapless and a safe choice. I had paired this dress with a white knitted cardigan, hoping that I looked decent but also casual since I had no idea what to wear.

As I was parking the car, a sudden panic swept over me. I couldn’t believe what I was doing. I suddenly felt like I was making a huge mistake.

I forced myself to get out of the car and gently remove Lily from her car seat. “Mommy! Up!” She said eagerly.

“Okay, sweetie.” I forced a smile and carefully lifted her onto my hip. I draped her diaper bag over my other shoulder and using the heel of my shoe, kicked the door closed behind us.

I stood staring at the large house looming before us. I had intentionally planned to be late, and was ready to cite Lily as my reason for being so. I hadn’t wanted to be the first to arrive, and by the looks of the cars surrounding mine, I was the last to arrive.

I sucked in a deep breath, but before I could take a step forward, the front door opened and Isaac appeared.

He jogged casually down the stairs. “Andy! You made it!” He beamed happily and embraced me loosely.

“Ikey!” Lily cried. She had picked up the word quickly on our day in the park, and even though it sounded like she was saying “Icky”, it made Isaac laugh nonetheless.

“You are so cute!” He laughed and carefully kissed her cheek. This sent her into a fit of giggles.

I couldn’t help but smile.

“Everyone is already here,” He informed me, gently leading me up the front stairs and into the house.

“Okay,” I replied.

“Don’t worry.” Isaac smiled, leading me through the house toward the back deck, “They’ve met you before, and they already love you.”

I smiled politely, unable to shake the knots in my stomach and the horrible thoughts racing through my head.

“Do you want me to hold her?” He offered.

“No, it’s okay. I’ve got her.” Lily was my security blanket, and I wasn’t going to let her go.

I followed him out onto the back patio and I felt several pairs of eyes on me.

“Andy!” Mrs. Hanson appeared and hugged me tightly. “Who is this little munchkin?”

“This is Lily.” I smiled. “My daughter.” I supplied before anyone had a chance to ask.

“She’s precious!” Mrs. Hanson fussed over her. “She’s absolutely adorable!”

“Thank you,” I smiled.

Isaac’s hand left my lower back as he stepped aside to have a conversation with is father.

“You’ve met Natalie, haven’t you?” Mrs. Hanson asked me.

“I have, a couple of times.” I smiled politely at Natalie, who approached to hug me. I hugged her loosely, trying not to seem awkward about it. The swell of her stomach made things awkward. I briefly remembered being that big.

When she released me, I hoisted Lily up further.

“It’s nice to see you again,” Natalie smiled to me. She caught something out of the corner of her eye and excused herself and left to scold one of the other Hanson children who was taking care of her son. I watched her go, and it was then that I noticed Taylor sitting by himself on a deck chair. He was holding a bottle of Corona, but his eyes were solely on me.

I forced myself to ignore it, insisting that the afternoon would go smoother if I simply ignored it.

I found a spot on a bench and sat slowly, carefully positioning Lily on my lap. I removed her doll from the diaper bag and placed it in her awaiting hands.

“Can I get you a drink or anything?” Isaac offered.

“No thank you.” I replied. “I’m okay.”

He sat next to me and placed an arm around the back of the bench. Lily reached for Isaac as soon as she saw him and handed him her doll.

He laughed. “You know, maybe she’d like to play with Ezra…”

I nodded. “Okay, I’ll go and find Natalie.” I hoisted Lily onto my hip and walked from the deck. I found Natalie sitting beneath a tree on a large blanket. She was playing with her own red-headed child.

“Hi,” I smiled politely. “Can we join you?”

“Of course you can!” She smiled at me.

I carefully placed Lily on the blanket amidst a pile of toys. Ezra promptly handed her the toy he was playing with to share.

“It’s good to see you’re back.” Natalie spoke, “I was beginning to think you were going to stay out there in California.”

I chuckled. “Well, I wanted Lily to be close to her grandmother.” It wasn’t the truth. The last thing I wanted was for Lily to be closer to her real father, but I wasn’t given much of a choice.

“Well, Tulsa is a lot different than Georgia, but I’m really starting to like it.” Natalie folded an arm over her stomach. “It must be really different than California.”

I smiled. “Well, I guess Lily should get to see snow.”

Natalie sighed, and I thought I detected a bit of fatigue. “I think it’s time to change Ezra. That’s probably why he was passed off to me.” She rolled her eyes. “I’ll be back in a bit. I’ll see if Taylor can take it.”

“Okay.” I smiled politely, and watched Lily wave goodbye to her new friend as Natalie toted him off toward the house.

I sighed heavily, my smile quickly fading. Letting Lily sit next to a kid who was technically her half brother felt weird; it felt wrong.

Lily handed me a wooden block, “Mommy.” She said.

I smiled at her. “I love you, honey.” I moved a stuffed dog into her reach, “I hope it doesn’t feel as weird for you as it does for me.”

A sudden shadow cast over us, and I looked up to see Taylor. Instinctively, I reached for Lily. Although she squirmed on my lap, I held her close.

Taylor, what do you want?” I demanded. “I thought Isaac-“

“He asked me to keep my distance.” Taylor sighed, and sunk to his knees on the blanket. “He knows I still have feelings for you.”

“Don’t do this…” I warned.

“I can’t help it. Andy, seeing you brings back all those feelings and memories that I try so hard to forget…. And seeing you with my brother just makes me so… unremarkably jealous.” His hands balled into fists.

“It’s over. You have a wife and a family, and I need to do what’s right for my little family.”

He sighed, “I know that. And I want you to be happy… are you sure that Isaac can make you happy?”

“I don’t know yet.” I admitted softly. Lily escaped my arms and went crawling toward Taylor.

I scooped her up before she could reach him.

Taylor eyed me suspiciously. “Why don’t you want me to see her?”

I pursed my lips tightly. “I don’t trust you, Taylor.”

“Why not?” He asked.

“Because… when you left it almost destroyed me. I’m still not completely over being hurt by you, and I don’t want her to feel the same hurt. I want to protect her from that… and if that means keeping her from you, than that’s what I’ll do.” I sighed.

Taylor looked hurt by this, but I didn’t care. “I never meant to hurt you.” He said softly.

“I know, but you did.” I rested my cheek against the top of Lily’s head. She had given up struggling, and had nestled warmly in my arms.

Taylor was silent for some time. He finally admitted. “I love my wife and son… but there’s a huge part of me that will always love you.”

“I… I’m sorry, but I’ll never be able to look at you and not hate you for breaking my heart.”

I stood and carrying Lily, walked away. We were safely out of range when I placed Lily on the ground and let her toddle along in front of me.

Isaac saw us approaching the back deck and jogged toward us. Lily spotted him immediately. “Ikey!” She shouted, reaching for him.

I smiled.

“I have something for you,” He smiled to Lily and from behind his back, produced a baby cookie.

Lily crashed eagerly into his legs and he scooped her up, placing the cookie into her awaiting hands.