A/N: Yay! An early-ish update! I haven’t been able to get through this chapter without multiple tissues, but I’m probably more invested than most. So, maybe a tissue warning? Thank yous to Team Spiderward for all you do. xx
Song inspiration for this chapter: “Fight Song,” Rachel Platten
(Playlist for this story can be found on my YouTube channel, if you search for “ghostreader24”)
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. The NHL owns anything that sounds familiar. I’m here having fun.
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Wednesday morning, I arrive at my townhouse, then enter through the back door inside the garage, noticing Mom in the kitchen.
“Knock, knock,” I say, closing the door behind me.
“Hello, sweetheart.” Mom smiles while unloading the dishwasher.
“Good morning.” I round the corner of the island and give her a hug. “How are you doing?”
“Me too.” I nod, then kiss her cheek. “Hey, Dad.”
“Bella.” Dad reaches for the remote control, turns off the television, then asks, “Did you watch the game last night?”
“By game, do you mean Edward’s hockey game?”
“Yeah. You don’t watch any other sports, do you?”
I chuckle. “No, I don’t, but I’m surprised you’re asking me about it.”
Standing from his spot, he grabs his coffee cup, then moves into the kitchen area, dumping its remaining contents in the sink.
Dad shrugs. “I’ve been catching most of his games.”
“I thought you only watched baseball and football.”
He fights a smile as his mustache twitches. “I’m expanding my horizons.”
Edward’s team won four to one against Carolina. After the game, they flew to Boston for their game tomorrow night. While he was on the plane, we texted briefly and I shared my congratulations. He was exhausted and said that he would probably fall asleep as soon as they made it to their hotel.
“I see. Are we ready to go?”
“Where is your purse?” Mom asks, closing the dishwasher.
“Outside. I left it in my car—not my car—the Bentley.” I shake my head. “That sounds ridiculously pretentious. Who am I? I need to rename it if this is going to work.”
“You’re keeping it?” Dad asks.
He’s aware of my struggle at driving Edward’s latest acquisition.
“It would seem so.”
While Edward claims I’m the persuasive one, he underestimates his own abilities, not that I had much of a choice in the matter. I agreed to drive it for the next month, and if I don’t love it, we’ll trade it for something else.
Mom pulls three envelopes from behind her juicer, handing them to me. “These are for you to put someplace safe.”
“What—?” I look down, flipping through each one to find them addressed in her handwritten scrawl with my name, Edward’s, and Pumpkin’s. My heart sinks at their implications. “Mom . . . are you trying to make me cry this morning?”
“No,” she says softly, as my throat tightens. “They’re for . . .”
After she’s gone.
Sniffing back the tears threatening to fall, I force out the words, “I know what they’re for.” What little strength I arrived with is crumbling rapidly. “I need a tissue.”
“There are some in the bathroom.”
“I’ll be right back, then we can go.”
I can’t believe I thought I could get through this experience without tears. No amount of mental prep on my part this morning is any match for those three envelopes. After blowing my nose, I splash a little cool water on my face, then exit the bathroom, finding my parents waiting by the door to the garage.
“Bella, I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“How is being reminded that no matter what happens I’m going to lose you, not upsetting?” I ask incredulously.
“I’m just trying to prepare for all possible outcomes. There may come a point when I can’t—”
“I know.” I nod, clutching the envelopes against my chest. As much as the reality hurts, I’m not prepared to accept that at this point. “Thank you.”
“Let’s hope I need to update them in the future,” Mom reassures.
“Yeah. Let’s hope.”
We step out into the garage and they follow me to the Bentley. I should probably let Dad drive, but I blow out a few steady breaths and take my spot behind the wheel. After tucking the envelopes into my purse, I hand it to Dad to store in the back seat, then glance at Mom.
“Oh, this is nice.” She looks around once she’s nestled in the passenger seat.
At that moment, what little shaky resolve I’m holding onto evaporates, knowing she deserves all the nice things I can give her, and another tear trickles down my cheeks.
“Dad?” I ask, as I struggle to catch my breath.
“Want me to drive?”
I’m not sure if it’s possible, but I need the ride to pull it together. After we switch places, he drives us to The Juice Bar. Once we enter the small shop, my eyes pass over the waiting customers in line, then to a blonde woman who smiles in our direction from where she’s sitting at a table.
“Renée?” she questions.
“That’s me,” Mom confirms with a small wave.
The woman’s smile widens and she stands to a height that could be taller than Edward. Approaching us, she opens her arms to embrace Mom in a hug.
“I’m a hugger. I hope that’s okay.” She chuckles.
Mom smiles. “It’s fine.”
“I’m Sasha. It’s wonderful to meet you. My apologies for needing to reschedule last week.”
With a shake of her head, Mom brushes off any concerns. “Not a problem. I’m glad we could meet this morning.”
Sasha’s violet-blue eyes shift to me. “And you must be Bella?”
“I am. We spoke on the phone.”
“I’m glad you reached out.” After a brief hug, she pulls away. “And Charlie?”
“Yep.” I’m not surprised when Dad offers his hand since he isn’t a hugger.
“It’s lovely to meet you.” Sasha shakes his hand, then thumbs behind her. “I grabbed us a table.”
“Okay.” Mom moves to follow her.
“Renée, what can I get you?” Dad asks, nodding toward the counter.
Mom glances at the menu briefly before her gaze returns to Sasha. “Any recommendations?”
“I’m having a Hottie,” she says with a lift of her eyebrows. “It’s delicious—carrot, orange, lemon, ginger, and cayenne.”
“There are so many choices and everything sounds great.” Mom scans the menu. “I guess I’ll have a Happy Healer.”
I locate her selection, finding it’s a juice that contains pineapple, cucumber, romaine, spinach, and turmeric.
Sounds . . . interesting.
Dad nods. “What about you, Bella?”
Zeroing in on the selection quickly, I chuckle. “I’ll have the peanut butter cup smoothie. Duh. Chocolate almond milk, banana, and some healthy peanut butter I’ve never heard of, has me written all over it. But look at these choices—smoothie bowls, overnight oats, kale salad—Edward would love this place. I wonder if he’s ever been here.”
Dad motions his hand toward where Sasha returns and offers, “Take a seat. I’ll order for us.”
Once we settle around the table, I’m not sure how to begin, but Sasha puts us at ease.
She reaches out to hold Mom’s hand. “Renée, I want you to feel as if you can ask me anything, and I’ll always be honest with you. I understand you had surgery for your brain tumor and are considering your next treatment steps, which may include a clinical trial.”
“That’s right,” Mom states with a slight nod.
Sasha shifts her attention to me. “Bella, tell me what you felt when you found out about your mother’s diagnosis.”
“Okay, we’re starting with me. I hope you have extra tissues,” I tease, but not really. “Um . . . I was scared—terrified at what was to come, and of course, the possibility of losing her. I still am. I don’t believe we are moving forward quickly enough with our decisions. I’m pregnant. I want my child to know his or her grandmother. Time is running out.”
From where she sits between us, Mom reaches out to cover my hand with hers. “Bella.”
I smile and continue. “I want the opportunity to bask in every moment as she becomes a grandmother. I’m engaged, and as selfish as it sounds, I want her at my wedding. I want her at birthdays and holidays. Weekend barbecues or just being able to pick up the phone and hear her voice—to hear her laughter on a random Thursday. I want all of it.”
Sasha nods her understanding. “That’s not selfish.”
I pause since it takes a moment for me to gather my thoughts about Mom’s care moving forward. “Most importantly, I want her to be happy, healthy, and pain free. I don’t want her to have another seizure. I want her to feel supported and loved regardless of whatever our outcome proves to be. I want to know that we are doing everything possible for her—that as her advocates and caregivers—we left no stone unturned. I’m curious. At the beginning of your journey, Sasha, did you consider not going the traditional route? Maybe pursue alternative medicine?”
Dad rejoins us, takes the chair between Sasha and me, then listens to her response.
“No, I didn’t, but I did make a variety of alternative care changes to my lifestyle that had a big impact in helping me with the side effects. After I did my initial treatments, my cancer was gone. I had surgery, then chemo and radiation therapy. I was tested frequently with clean scans for about six months. When we learned that my cancer cells were active again with new, measurable tumors, my doctor proposed a clinical trial, instead of repeating the previous treatments.”
“What went into your decision to move forward with those?” I ask.
“Let me share that no one has a crystal ball. The trial teams don’t know who will respond best to what is available out there, but they are continuously learning more with every approach,” she explains. “One of the primary reasons I joined a clinical trial was that I knew, if what the researchers learned couldn’t help me, they might be able to help someone else. And that thought of helping to eliminate someone else’s cancer kept me motivated to continue.”
Over the faint whirl of a blender, Mom and I share a smile at her reasoning.
Sasha takes a quick sip from her juice. “When someone goes through a clinical trial, you aren’t simply a cancer patient receiving treatment, but you are a collaborator, working in partnership with your clinical trial team. Do I believe we’re on the right road for a brain tumor cure? Absolutely, but we have to be realistic. It isn’t an easy journey—nothing worthwhile ever is.”
Nodding my agreement, I know all too well that’s true not only in this situation, but also life in general.
“Immunotherapy is giving everyone hope that didn’t exist not long ago. The work that’s taking place is exciting for what it means for our community not just across our country, but around the world. Survivors of glioblastoma do exist, and we’re talking ten to twenty year survivors who aren’t just living, but thriving.”
I want that so much for Mom, and I know Dad does too.
“Out of twenty patients in my clinical trial, I was one of two that it helped.” My stomach sinks with Sasha’s reveal. Those aren’t necessarily great numbers, but they’re better than doing nothing. “It’s been almost five years for me and I’m still cancer free. Life is precious. Time is precious. It’s all about moving forward, and to move forward, taking a risk is critical to your future health and happiness. This is the time to be fearless.”
Mom gives her a hesitant smile. “That’s easier said than done.”
“Charlie?” a worker says loudly from behind the counter.
With our order ready, Dad stands to grab our drinks from where they’re waiting.
“Mom,” I whisper, shift my hold, then give her hand a supportive squeeze.
Her eyes find mine, filling with tears. “If we’re all being honest, I’m scared.”
“You aren’t alone in that fear, but I’m more afraid of losing you. You have no idea how difficult it is for me to watch you struggle with this decision. I love you. Dad loves you. I know you can do this. Let’s take the next step together.” I release a shaky breath, fighting off my own tears threatening to fall. “Please. I need you. We need you.”
Mom shakes her head, staring at our joined hands as a lone tear escapes, trailing down her cheek. “I will never be the same again.”
“No, you won’t,” I agree. “None of us will. But there’s a chance you’ll be better—stronger. Let’s take it. Together.”
She visibly trembles while struggling to share her next thought.
“Okay,” Mom says softly.
I gasp, not sure if I’ve heard her correctly. “Okay?”
She forces a smile. “I want Pumpkin to know Nana is a fighter.”
There’s no question about that. Mom needs more than the surgery, which is why her journey needs to continue. I’m elated to know she is in agreement and isn’t giving up on this fight.
“Oh, Mom.” I hug her tightly, then reluctantly release her. “Nana, huh?”
“I want to meet my new grandbaby. I don’t know how much time it will grant me, but hopefully, it’s enough.”
I’ll take anything I can get. I never want to let her go.
She nods. “Will you call your friend for me?”
“Yes, and confirm that we can stay with her. I’ll call my doctor and ask when I can begin treatment.”
“Thank you,” I whisper, then brush a few stray tears from the corners of my eyes.
Dad retrieves extra napkins, allowing us to dab eyes and blow noses before we sample our juices and smoothies. I try to follow our conversation, but the entire time I’m wondering what brought Mom to her latest decision. Maybe she already made it before we arrived or something shared tipped her over the edge.
Or maybe it’s simply spending time with Sasha who is vibrant, full of energy, and has an undeniable zest for life.
Or maybe it’s the realization that she isn’t alone.
Or that Pumpkin is on the way.
I don’t care whatever it is; I’m overflowing with gratitude.
After a promise to stay in touch with Sasha about Mom’s progress, we part ways with another round of hugs. Dad drives us back to my townhouse where I slip behind the wheel and promise to get in touch with Alice in order to figure out our next steps.
Since I’m not due at work until this afternoon, I have a little extra time and decide to make another stop. Pulling into the parking lot, I take a moment to leave a message for Alice, then send Edward a brief text.
Mom agreed to begin
treatment in Houston.
I can’t believe it.
He doesn’t reply immediately. So, I slip my phone in my purse and make my way inside the shop.
“Hey, Afton.” I smile.
He whistles. “Well, hello, Dr. Bentley. Can I—”
Al rounds the corner. “Bella!”
“Al.” It only takes a shared look between us and I’m unable to hold back any remaining tears. “She’s going to do it.”
He wraps an arm around me, ushering me toward his station where I sit in his chair. “And by she, we mean . . .?”
“Mom. S-She’s going to Houston to begin treatment,” I explain with a shaky breath.
Al removes a box of tissues from the cabinet to the side of the mirror. “And we’re happy about that?”
“Yes.” I choke out between sobs, dabbing my eyes with a tissue.
“Why are you crying? This is a great thing.”
“I don’t know. I can’t stop them. I’m a mess.”
His face softens. “No, you’re not.”
“I’m sorry for interrupting, but Edward isn’t home. I just left Mom and Dad.” I wave my hand toward my reflection in the mirror. “I can’t go to work like this.”
“You came to the right place.” Al smiles reassuringly.
I glance around the salon, noticing it’s empty. “Are you expecting a client? Where is everyone?”
“No. My next one isn’t until after lunch. Everyone went to eat lunch at a new Mexican place around the corner. We weren’t feeling up to it. So, we were thinking about grabbing something else.”
His eyes find Afton’s, and they share a silent conversation before Al returns his focus to me.
“You have some down time?” I ask hopefully.
“I always have time for you, but I have an idea. How about a shampoo, trim, and blow out? It will make you feel like a million bucks before you’re needed at work.”
I nod. “Okay. Thank you.”
Al adds a smock around my neck, then leads me toward the shampoo station. Once I settle into the chair, he leans me backward. Almost instantly, my entire body relaxes and I can breathe easier. The incredible combination of the warm water, scented shampoo, and his scalp massage do the trick, washing away the stress that’s been building inside of me for the past few days. After a quick rinse, Al covers my head with a towel, helps me sit up, then guides me back to his chair.
He’s combing out my hair, getting ready to begin trimming when the door to the salon opens and I hear the chime of the bell. My eyes find Afton, returning with a carrier of beverages and a few bags. He approaches us, setting everything on the empty countertop of the station next to Al’s.
“Dr. Swan, I didn’t know what you normally chose at Starbies, so I got you a variety of options.”
“Afton, you’re a saint, but I can’t drink coffee. And didn’t I ask you to call me Bella?”
“I didn’t buy any coffee.” He grins knowingly.
My eyes find Al’s in the mirror. “Wait—”
“I may have spilled the coffee beans that I’m going to be an uncle,” Al reveals with a wide grin. “I’m sorry, but my excitement cannot be contained. You know that! I am creating the most fabulous nursery ever to exist in the history of nurseries.”
I chuckle. “Everyone here knows?”
Afton giggles. “Yes! Can you feel it move yet?”
“No. It’s too soon.” I tilt my head slightly toward the drinks and bags. “Okay, what are my choices?”
He points to a green drink. “This is an Iced Pineapple Matcha. It’s made with coconut milk and D-lish. The ubiquitous Pink Drink, which always slays. And this last one is an Iced Golden-Ginger. It tastes like sunshine in a cup.”
I eye them skeptically. “I’m not supposed to have a lot of sugar.”
“Then explain to me how you keep up with that stallion of yours?” Afton asks.
“Girl, you need energy to mount that fine beast every night—and morning. He looks as if he would need to dip his wick at least a couple of times a day. How are you able to walk with that regularity?”
I snort, pointing toward the golden-ginger drink, and Afton adds a paper straw to it for me.
“Your Edward came in here strutting around with his chiseled jaw and perfectly messy hockey hair, asking Al for advice on how to propose to you. He wanted your bestie’s opinion. He’s a keeper.”
I gasp over the sound of Al’s repeated scissor snips. “He did?”
Al only nods while focusing on a different section of my hair.
“Awww, you’re going to make me cry again.”
“Let’s distract you, then.” Afton hands over my selection. “Drink. This isn’t sugar. It’s therapy.”
I smile. “Thank goodness you’re my people. You won’t believe what I drank earlier. It definitely wasn’t a peanut butter cup. Talk about false advertising.”
“I don’t even want to know. Although, I’m positive you’re getting that vitamin D on the reg. Your skin is glowing.”
“I think that’s the pregnancy.”
“Whatever it is, it looks good on you.”
I release a heavy sigh. “Let’s hope I can keep this down.”
“Gross. That’s a real thing?”
“If it were possible, I wouldn’t mind being pregnant by him too. Can you imagine our beautiful babies? I think there’s an app for that.” Afton lowers his voice. “Don’t tell him I said that. I’m sure yours will be gorgeous. I had to play annoyed cool when he was in here. It was nearly impossible. I was dying inside! I could have used a tranquilizer dart to the neck.”
I chuckle, taking a long draw from my drink. “This is good.”
“Let’s go over your food choices.”
“I hope there’s chocolate.”
“In that case, I have a unicorn cake pop because, well, unicorns—ob-vee.” He removes it from one of the bags, holding the cake pop out for me. “There’s chocolate cake in the middle.”
“It’s darling and reminds me of Katie. She would love this.” I take a bite. “Oh, this is delicious—fudgy.”
“We also have the classic Iced Lemon Loaf.” Afton holds up another option.
Scrunching up my face, I shake my head and finish off the rest of the cake pop.
“I’ll take it,” Al says, jerking his chin toward the bag. “I’m starving.”
Afton nods, setting it off to the side. “Double chocolate brownie?”
“Yes! Me!” I chuckle. “You’re amazing. I could kiss you. Al needs to give you a promotion or a raise. If he doesn’t, you could come work for me. You can be my sugar dealer.”
“Did you hear that, Boss? My stock is going up. And I’ll accept your kisses any day.” Afton winks.
“Sadly, I can’t only eat sugar. Did you get anything else?”
Afton nods. “Of course. We have three sandwiches: turkey pesto, tomato mozzarella, and ham swiss. I know they’re all a little pedestrian, but this is what we have to work with. You pick first.”
“Mmmm. I’ll take tomato mozzarella.”
“Excellent choice.” He hands it to me and I take a quick bite.
“Uh . . . turkey pesto,” Al says, snipping away at my ends.
Afton sets it off to the side, then opens the remaining sandwich, taking a bite. After finishing his mouthful, he asks, “What do you think of the nursery so far?”
Al looks up at my reflection and smirks. “She isn’t allowed to see it until it’s complete.”
Aftons’s eyes widen. “Ohhhh, secrets. I love it.”
“Have you decided on a venue for the engagement party?” I ask Al.
He nods. “I have two current choices, but I need your final number. Do you know how many you’re inviting?”
After a bite of my sandwich, I reply. “I’ve been working on our list. I think we’re close to two-thirty.”
I don’t miss his quick intake of breath.
“Is that too many?”
“You’re going to need to make some cuts. I thought we agreed on around one hundred? Maybe I need to rethink venues then.” His eyes find mine in the mirror.
“No worries. I’ll make cuts and get back to you. I just need more time.”
“You got it. Are we still thinking June?”
I nod. “Yeah, Edward said that the playoffs should be over by then, which makes most of the people on his portion of the list available if not before.”
“Okay, that gives us some flexibility and more time than I thought.” Al smiles. “I found you a dress.”
“You did? I didn’t know you were looking.”
“I’m always looking. Edward is going to love it.”
“I hope that doesn’t mean my ta-tas are going to be hanging out all night.” I chuckle. “They’re currently pushing the limits of every bra I own.”
“Do you trust me?”
I grin. “You know I do.”
“Well, I love it. The dress has a classic silhouette and color, which is all you, but Edward is there in the details too. I can’t wait to show it to you.”
“He loved my Casino Night dress. Is it anything like that one? It would probably fit differently now with how my body is changing. Maybe you need to retake my measurements. Hopefully, the material is stretchy with my blossoming shape.”
Al shrugs and continues snipping. “Similar, but in my opinion, this dress is even better. I had it flown in from California. If we need to make alterations closer to the party, we will.”
Afton’s brow furrows. “Do you hear that vibrating? Or am I imagining it?”
We’re quiet and listen for a moment.
“I bet that’s my phone. I left a message for Alice and texted Edward before I came inside.”
Al jerks his chin toward the closed cabinet. “Grab her purse; I tucked it inside there.”
Once we trade my sandwich for my phone, I enter my passcode, notice the alerts, then glance through my messages, clicking on Alice’s first.
Sorry, I missed your call.
Your parents are welcome anytime.
Let me know when to expect them,
and I’ll make sure a guest house is ready.
Thank you! We really appreciate it.
I switch to my last conversation with Mom, noticing a recent message.
Talked with Gloria and Dr. Sadarangani—
The plan is to begin treatment Monday morning.
Let me know if this works for Alice.
Wow. It’s really happening.
Yes it does.
She said you’re welcome anytime.
Your dad and I are thinking . . .
Saturday for a temporary move,
lasting six weeks.
This would give us Sunday to get
settled before Monday morning.
Holy shit. It’s all so fast. My head is spinning a little.
Okay. I’ll let her know.
I switch back to my conversation with Alice.
Is Saturday too soon?
I don’t have to wait long before it appears that she’s typing a response.
Not at all.
I’ll let our property manager know.
Come find me at the main house.
We’ll ride to the guest house together.
I’m looking forward to seeing you.
It’s been too long.
I wish it were under better circumstances.
But this is a good thing.
I can’t forget that.
Thank you for your help!
It’s been more than I could imagine.
You have no idea how much I appreciate it!
See you Saturday.
“What is it?” Al asks.
“Mom and Dad are moving to Houston on Saturday for six weeks. She begins treatment Monday morning.”
I switch back to my conversation with Mom.
What time do you want to leave Saturday?
We’re early birds.
Is eight too early for you?
It is for a Saturday when I like to ease into the day due to my exhaustion since becoming pregnant. Regardless, I’ll suck it up and be there, ready to go.
Not at all.
I’ll see you then.
I love you, Mom. xx
I love you too, Bella.
I look at Al in the mirror and meet his compassionate eyes. “And when I didn’t think more tears were possible. We’re doing this.” I crumple under the emotional weight of us moving forward finally. “I just can’t believe it.”
Once I pull it together, I sniff through fresh tears and click on my conversation with Edward since there’s a new message from him too.
What was the tipping point?
I have no idea—and haven’t asked.
I don’t want to rock the boat
and have Mom change her mind.
I feel as if I’ve been crying all morning.
I’m exhausted, but getting ready for work.
I told Vic I would be there this afternoon.
I’m with Al now at his salon.
He’s doing my hair.
Can we do a video call once you’re done?
I’m eating with the guys, but back at the hotel.
I should be finished in the next twenty minutes.
Okay. I’ll probably be done by then.
I’ll call you.
After Afton returns my phone to my purse, I nibble on small bites of my sandwich and brownie until he offers to repack my food to take with me and finish later. I watch as Al runs his hands through my damp hair, while blowing it dry. He adds a variety of new products that leave it shiny and bouncy. When he pronounces me ready for work, there’s no keeping the smile from my face at the lighter feeling.
His brand of magic always works on me.
After a round of hugs and goodbyes, I drive to our office, but decide to call Edward from the privacy of my vehicle in the parking lot when it feels as if everyone can hear every conversation in our office.
“Hello, beautiful.” He’s in his hotel room, leaning against the headboard of the bed.
“Hey, I’m not so sure about that assessment with my red puffy eyes.”
“You’ll always be beautiful to me.”
“Your hair looks great. If I was there, I wouldn’t be able to keep my hands out of it.” He grins with a wiggle of his eyebrows.
“Thanks. It’s soft and smells so good. I bought some new products from Al to use at home, but it’s never as great as when he does my hair.”
“When are your parents going to Houston?”
“We’re going on Saturday and using Sunday to get them settled. Her treatments will begin Monday morning.”
Edward nods. “After our game tomorrow night, we’re flying to St. Louis for Saturday’s game.”
“Are you starting?”
“No. Ben is getting the start against Boston.”
“How do you feel about that?” I wonder.
He shrugs. “It isn’t my decision.”
“So, you’ll be back on . . .?”
“Early Sunday morning.”
I release a heavy sigh since he’s probably not going to like my suggested plans. I’m not fond of them either, but I believe it’s what I need to do.
“I’m going to talk with Victoria, and if she is willing to handle our patient load on her own for a few days, I’m planning to stay until Wednesday. Are you okay if I stay until then? I mean, I miss the hell out of you already and it will suck not seeing you when you return Sunday, but I’m not sure what to expect after Mom’s first treatment, and I want to be with her and Dad. Vera can take care of Scout and Shadow for us. I’ll message her.”
Edward grins. “You miss the hell out of me?”
“Of course, it’s fine with me for you to stay with your parents, and I miss you too.”
“This is all just . . . crazy, isn’t it?”
“We’re juggling a lot. Next week, we have a game at home on Tuesday night. I believe that one is against Edmonton, then we’ll leave Wednesday afternoon for our game in Nashville on Thursday.”
“So, even if I get back on Wednesday, I won’t get to see you?” I’m teetering on a razor thin emotional edge with that thought, and my tears are back in full-force.
“Hey, don’t cry.”
“I’m sorry. This day has just been—”
“There’s nothing to be sorry about. It will be okay. We’ll figure something out. Let’s just take it one day at a time,” he states.
“I wish you were here.”
His voice softens, “I do too. We can’t lose sight of the most important thing in this situation—your mother is moving forward with treatment. Us being away from each other is temporary.”
“You’re right.” I chuckle through my tears. “I’m going to need another vacation after this. I’m one giant ball of stress.”
Edward shares my favorite crooked grin. “I’ll take you anywhere you want to go.”
“Everything’s going to be okay, right?” I ask, needing his reassurance.
“Yes. Everything is going to be okay. How about a fun fact?”
“Pumpkin is the size of a blueberry now.”
“Yeah. The app says you should begin taking weekly belly pics and share them with your incredibly handsome fiancé since he can’t be there to take his own.”
“Is that what it says?” I ask skeptically.
“More or less,” he concedes.
I wish I could curl up in his arms and nap with him this afternoon. I knew this was going to be a tough day, and so far I’ve been correct. I’m emotionally drained.
With a sigh, I lean against the door and whisper, “I love you.”
“I love you too,” Edward replies.
“I love you more,” I counter teasingly.
“I don’t think that’s possible. You’ll send me a belly pic?” he prompts again, as if I would forget his request.
After a nod, I promise, “I’ll send you one tonight.”
“I know you’re busy and need to go, but I wanted the opportunity to see you before work. Have a great afternoon, Doc.”
“I’ll do my best, but let’s keep the bar low and manage our expectations. I don’t feel on top of my game right now.”
“Maybe you should take the rest of the day off,” Edward suggests.
Shaking my head, I share, “I have patients on our schedule this afternoon. I’ll be okay. Enjoy your nap. I’m jealous. I could use one, but I’ll have to settle for an early bedtime tonight. Scout and Shadow will love that.”
“Now, I’m the one jealous.” His grin returns and he kisses his hand, then waves. “I’ll talk with you soon.”
I repeat his actions, sending him my own kiss. “Sweet dreams.”
“If I have any, they’ll be of you.”