That day at school was probably the best I’d ever had.
At first, I was nervous, half expecting Bear to act as if nothing were different. But the second he saw me on the way to second block, a huge grin spread across his face and he left his oh-so-popular buddies to come envelop me in a hug.
“I missed you,” he said, brushing my bangs out of my eyes.
I bit my lip and smiled back.
“Come on.” He took my hand and led me down the hall. “I’ll meet you after class, ‘kay?”
I nodded and he leaned down and gave me a quick kiss on the forehead. I floated into the classroom, conscious of the stares I was receiving.
True to his word, Bear caught up to me and Cady Anderson (one of the girls I sat with at lunch).
“Sit with me today,” he pleaded, sneaking up and grabbing me from behind.
I turned into him, sending a guilty glance to Cady. She gave me a nod and a wave. “Okay.”
Bear’s smile was sexy and lopsided as he took my hand and walked over to his table. I was aware that he was almost flaunting me, showing me off, and while on one hand this almost bothered me, the other half of me reveled in it and took it for the compliment it was.
“Hey, guys, Emma Gray’s gonna sit with us. You mind sliding down one, Jake?”
Jake obliged and a spot opened for me. I awkwardly sat, surrounded by people I knew by name only gawking at me. But as lunch went by, I felt my admiration for Bear growing. His easy efforts to include me amazed me and I found myself incredibly proud of him (and me, for making about 57 new “friends”).
After school he only had about an hour before he had to report to the baseball field. We grabbed Frosties from Wendy’s and lay out on the hood of his car in the school parking lot. A couple of his friends were there and I had coerced Renee and Andy into joining us. As we sat there throwing French fries and laughing, it struck me how crazily my life had changed in just a few weeks. I had gone from Lawrie Wilder’s little sister to dating the hottest guy in school.
“We’re gonna get smashed,” Ehren Engel (the shortstop with a batting average of .512) was saying as I came back into the conversation.
“Shut up, boy.” Andy threw an empty water bottle at him.
“They beat a team last night 15-1,” Ehren insisted.
“Must’ve been a shitty team.”
“Damn. We’ve gotta go, boys,” Cody Valentine spoke up.
“What time is it?” Andy asked, sliding off his hood.
“3:38.” They were supposed to be in the locker room no later than 3:45.
I watched Andy walk off with Cody and Ehren without so much as a backwards wave to Renee.
“I gotta go,” Bear said next to me, running his fingers through my hair.
I nodded. “I’ll see you at the game,” I said, my attention still on Andy.
“Hey, Em,” Bear whispered.
“Hmm?” I turned to him and found his face a mere inch from mine.
“I probably won’t see you after the game. My dad’s gonna want to leave for the mountains as soon as it’s over.”
“Okay,” I whispered back.
It was a nice April afternoon. I could feel the heat from the car through my jeans. Everything slowed and I sensed my pulse speeding up as I watched Bear lean forward, millimeters at a time.
“Goodbye, Emma,” he said, his lips almost touching mine we were so close. I never got to reciprocate, as Bear made that last movement forward and his mouth pressed gently against mine. The world stopped for a few seconds as I felt my lips grow wet and finally our mouths opened.
Renee cleared her throat and Bear and I immediately pulled back. A crimson blush stole over my cheeks, and Bear smiled almost shyly.
“Sorry to interrupt your makeout sesh, but you are my ride, Em.”
“I’ll see you, Emma Gray,” Bear said, running his hands through my hair one last time before turning and walking into the locker room. I sighed contentedly and laid back, spread eagled on Bear’s car.
After the game (in which they didn’t get smashed, but won 2-1), there was time for a quick kiss and another goodbye, and then the boy of my dreams was off to his aunt’s house, three hours away, deep in the mountains. (“She’s kind of a hick,” Bear had said. “Eats collard greens, shoots squirrels with a BB gun. The whole nine yards.”)
My sisters and their husbands had come and watched Lawrie’s game, and we all smushed into Garret’s 8-seater for the ride home. I was sandwiched between the two athletes, Lawrie’s sweaty bicep pushing me on one side, Laney’s leg propped up on my knee on the other. In front of us, Annabelle and her husband Madden caught Mom up on the Coloradan adventures. (They’d moved to Denver shortly after getting married, much to my mother’s dismay.) The car ride was a (long) joyous one and we all arrived back at home in good spirits. Lawrie and Laney shuffled into the living room, kicking off their shoes, both intent on showering first thing.
“Hey, can you guys stay down here for a second?” Annabelle spoke up, following them into the house. Lawrie sent her a weird look, but obeyed. At those words, I knew immediately what was coming. I had had my suspicions since Mom had said Annabelle was coming home, but just then they were confirmed.
I settled comfortably into the couch, Laney leaning on the armrest beneath me, as Annabelle sent Marybeth off to get Dad from his office. Lawrie sprawled in the middle of the room, already stripped down to his boxers. Annabelle was perched on the armrest of the chair Madden was occupying, and Mom sat next to me, an unreadable expression on her face.
“Lawson, put some clothes on.” My dad threw a blanket at Lawrie as he entered the room. Dad came across as intimidating to anyone who didn’t know him. He was tall, 6’2”, and his dark hair was just beginning to gray at the temples. Marybeth followed him in and stood near Annabelle and Madden, Garret’s arms wrapped around her.
I looked around the crowded room at the people I loved so much, and a feeling of excitement began to bubble inside of me. My eyes flashed from Marybeth to Annabelle, debating which one of them was going to make the announcement. I was leaning towards Annabelle.
“Mom, Dad,” Marybeth said finally, her eyes sparkling as she looked back at Garret, then down to Annabelle and Madden.
We all started. It wasn’t Marybeth who’d said it. It was Marybeth, and Garret, and Annabelle, and Madden, all disjointedly but still at the same time. I watched Mom’s face blanch with the shock of it.
“Both of you?” Dad whispered. Mary and Annabelle nodded, hesitant smiles on their faces. Tears of joy streamed down my dad’s face as he enveloped his oldest two children in a hug. It was the first time I’d seen my dad cry and it wasn’t an image I’d forget lightly.
Finally, Mom snapped out of it and clasped both of her hands to her mouth and shrieked. She jumped up and offered hugs all around. Soon, Laney, Lawrie and I joined them and it was a great big happy family moment.
“All right, boy,” Annabelle said, pushing Lawrie off her. “You can go shower.” Lawrie gave her a kiss on the forehead and then he and Lane disappeared up the stairs.
“How far along?” Mom was asking.
“I’m five weeks. Annabelle’s seven.”
“Seven weeks! “ Mom shouted. “And I’m just now being told!”
“We wanted to tell you in person!”
When Bear called late that night, I told him all about it.
“I knew it! I knew one of them had to be pregnant.”
Bear laughed. “I miss you already, Em,” he said as the conversation lulled.
I was curled up on the porch swing, picking at the strings on my jacket. (Annabelle and Madden had my room since Marybeth and Garret were in the guest bedroom.) “Yeah,” I said, smiling. “You, too.”
“Today…” He exhaled loudly. “Emma, today was amazing. I have… That kiss…”
“That kiss,” I repeated.
“Yeah,” he sighed. “You’re fucking amazing, Emma Gray. I just want you to know that. Look, I gotta go. I’ll call you tomorrow, okay?”