Okay, everyone, this is the LAST PART OF THE ACTUAL SERIES. Meg and I are working on prequel parts and other parts in this universe but, as far as this story goes, this is the END. We’ve LOVED writing this fic for you guys and we love how much you all love it. Thank you so much for reading it! Written with @stolenkissesprettyliies but you knew that already.
“I don’t wanna go,” Taylor whined, wrapping her arms tight around Adam’s waist and burying her face in his chest. “Don’t make me go,”
“You’ve gotta go… unless you want to curse our marriage before we even walk down the aisle,” Adam chuckled, kissing the top of her head a few times in quick succession. “You’ll have fun with your parents, I’m sure.”
“But I wanna stay here. I like our bed here better than the one at my parents’ house. And, you want me to get a good night’s sleep, don’t you? Otherwise, I might fall asleep during the ceremony,”
“I guess I could always leave and stay with a friend…” he let his words hang in the air, looking down at her despite the way she had managed to burrow into the crook of his neck. “I think you’ll be okay for the ceremony though. I believe in you.”
“Fine,” she pouted, sticking her bottom lip out. “I’ll go, I’ll go. But, I’m not happy about it,”
“You don’t have to be happy about it, you just gotta do it,” he laughed, shoving her playfully towards the door with a swat to her butt, “Go on.”
“I love you,” she said, kissing his cheek. “You better show up tomorrow, Adam Wiles. If you leave me stranded at the altar, I’ll kill you,”
“Why do we have to do this?” “Jensen, do my dreams mean nothing to you?” “Why are these your dreams?” Misha sighs deeply and holds the phone out of reach, looking
pointedly at the menu sitting in front of Jensen. “Say it correctly and then we can order,” Misha says. Jensen lets out a groan. It had all started on May 12th, when Misha noticed a tweet
informing him that it was National Nutty Fudge Day. Misha, hardly one to pass up
such a sacred and momentous holiday, had called a local bakery and ordered two 13-by-9
inch pans of it. Then he and Jensen settled down on the couch.
Hiiiii, my little cupcakes!! Sorry about the wait, but hopefully you’ll enjoy what is essentially 9k of fluff (and some v important stuff, so read closely)! Hope everyone has had a great holiday season and I can’t wait to hear what you think! <3
making memories of chocolate chip cannoli cupcakes; june 12, 2019
I was in for quite the surprise when I arrived at the London Ballet early Wednesday afternoon. With two cups in hand—one of peppermint tea and the other of french vanilla coffee—I walked into the costume studio expecting to find Ren hard at work behind her sewing machine. Instead, I found her kneeling in front of Niall with a couple of pins in her mouth as she fastened pink tulle at his waist.
“Oh,” I said, jumping back in surprise. I startled them both into looking in my direction.
“Ah, me Buttercream Beauty!” Niall grinned madly at me. “Me Sensational Seamstress says I have the hips of a ballerina. Best compliment I’ve ever gotten! I’m gonna audition to be a Sugarplum Fairy!”
I bit back my laughter and set the two cups on her work table. I’d been absent from both of their lives for the past few weeks, so I wasn’t sure when this had happened. I knew when he drove her home from brunch things went well, but I was pleasantly surprised that they went this well.
“I—uh,” Ren stumbled over her words and scrambled to her feet. “I n—needed to do an a—alternation, and N—Niall dropped Catherine off and he’s the same size as—”
“I think it’s great he’s able to help you!” I said, taking a seat.
“I’m thinking about starting a new career.” Niall craned his head around to look at me quickly. “I’m quite the exceptional muse. Isn’t that right, me Doting Designer?”
Ren’s cheeks went impossibly red and I couldn’t help but smile as I watched her fumble with some sketches on her desk. She was nervous, but a different kind of nervous. She was the kind of nervous some girls got around boys they liked. She continued to blush and tried to conceal a very shy smile.
“Did you say you dropped Catherine off?” I asked Niall, changing the subject to get it off Ren. She seemed relieved.
“Yeah, Rebecca had a meeting with Michael, but she’s supposed to be on her way now,” Niall explained. “Must have been real desperate if she asked me. She told me I was a danger to her children after I bought Teddy that twenty-scoop ice cream sundae. I really didn’t think he’d eat it all.”
I cringed. “He has a stomach of steel.”
“Yeah, until he puked all over me car.”
I wrinkled my nose. This sort of thing didn’t typically make me queasy, but my prenatal vitamin had already left me nauseous.
“I thought you two were going to be away until after your anniversary,” Niall said as Ren carefully took the tutu off of him. “When did you get back?”
“Late last night. We decided to come home early.” I shrugged it off, hoping to not make it seem like a big deal. We couldn’t tell anyone about the baby until the second trimester for safety reasons. I had a rough estimate of when I thought that would be, but we’d have it confirmed at our doctor’s appointment tomorrow.
“Where’s that snarly husband of yours?” he asked.
I sighed and sat back in the chair. “He’s at the vet.”
Both Ren and Niall looked confused.
“With Snickerdoodle,” I clarified. “Our rabbit.”
“You have a rabbit?” Ren asked.
“And a sheep and a goat.”
“And the cow?” Niall pinched his brows together.
“So…” He had to fight the smile. “You have a petting zoo?”
“The goat doesn’t like to be pet.”
I saw war flashbacks in Niall’s eyes. He hadn’t had great experiences with animals. Especially with goats.
“You two really need a reality show,” he finally said.
I didn’t want to bring the rabbit home, but there was a lot of begging and pleading and guilt tripping on Harry’s end. And once we realized the reason it wasn’t moving around in the box was because there was something wrong with its hind legs, it would have been inhumane to leave the poor and defenseless thing in the wild, so Harry packed it a nice box with lots of my favorite dishtowels as cushions and strapped it into the backseat. He looked pleased with himself until I told him car seats weren’t as easy to install. He had some work cut out for himself if he really wanted to impress me.
“You’re feeling better, though?” Niall asked after a moment, his tone softer and more serious than usual. “We’ve all been worried about you.”
I smiled. I such great friends whom I’d pushed away for my own selfish reasons. I was happy in the sense that Harry and I were able to work things out, but sad that I missed out on so much. Niall and Ren seemed to be much closer. Parker’s birthday was coming up. I felt like I hadn’t been actively involved with Jane, Catherine, and Teddy in months. I needed to get back into my routine desperately.
“A—and by ‘worried about’ he means ‘hasn’t had a baked good in a month’,” Ren laughed.
A look appeared on Niall’s face that resembled a snarl. “That’s not true,” he replied. “I had to find my goods in other places.”
“You cheated on me?” I frowned. This little thing had been going on since we met. We had an agreement that he didn’t wander off to any other baking establishments. That meant I was sending him packages on tour and doing a little extra holiday baking for his family in Ireland. I wanted him to have the best, and, well, I was the best.
“I have needs, me Gourmet Goddess,” Niall said with a shrug. “I’d gone three weeks without a cupcake. I was desperate.”
“You couldn’t have waited?” I cried. “Where did you even go?”
“I tried, but I saw this little shop over on Heath and one thing led to another…”
I sniffled and tried to convince myself that I had no reason to cry. I wasn’t there and he was right; he had needs. It was my own fault.
“We—were they as good as mine?”
Niall’s eyes went wide and his cheeks paled, no longer the rosy shade they always were. “No! Don’t cry! They were rubbish! Dry as all hell! I think I got food poisoning.”
I shook my head and forced a smile. “It’s fine, Sunshine. I’m not mad.”
“I’ll never get my cupcakes from anyone other than you ever again.”
I sniffled again, realizing I was acting a little crazier than usual. I needed to get these hormones in check before they got out of control.
Thankfully, we were interrupted before I could become more upset over the thought of Niall eating someone else’s cupcakes. Rebecca popped her head into the room, a wide smile sprawled over her lips. She was toting a paper cup with a bright red lipstick stain on the lid—no doubt sipping on a chai latte that had long gone cold—and her laptop was clutched to her chest along with thick envelopes filled with whatever manuscripts were on her desk that morning. Like myself, she always had a little too much on her plate, but she always managed to get her work done. She was some type of wonder woman and I could only hope to be half the mother she was.
“Sorry I’m late,” she breathed, dropping her bags onto the chair before collapsing into the one beside me. “Traffic is absolutely mental!”
“I should get going then,” Niall said. “Jane’s football coach said I could come up with a few plays! Thinking about taking me Little Kickers over to the field to show them what hard work and dedication can do!”
“Niall, they’re five,” Rebecca laughed. “It’s a good day if they share the ball.”
“You’re soft like Harry.” Niall grabbed his keys and sunglasses off Ren’s desk. “Discipline is what they need! Also, baths. Why do they always smell so bad?”
“Have you ever tried to give a rebelling five-year-old a bath?” Rebecca asked.
“Well,” she laughed again. “That’s why they smell so bad.”
Niall gave us a short chuckle before Ren offered to walk him out. I was so happy to see how close they’d gotten—how comfortable she’d become around him—that I no longer cared about Niall’s tryst with another baker. I wanted to know everything, but I also didn’t want to be pushy. I figured Ren would tell me as much or as little as she felt comfortable sharing.
“So…” Rebecca looked over at me coyly, a smile teasing her lips. “You’re back early.”
“Yeah, we had to cut the trip short.”
“Oh?” She licked her lips and ran her thumb under the flap of the envelope. “Any reason why?”
She wasn’t looking at me, but she was trying desperately to conceal a smile, pretending like this conversation was just as casual as the one she probably had with her secretary this morning. I knew it wasn’t. I could feel that it wasn’t. This was textbook. She was trying to feel me out, like a mother trying to catch her child in a lie.
“Don’t hm me.” I straightened up and folded my arms together. “You know.”
Rebecca smiled. “I know what?”
“You… you know what!”
She set the manuscript down and laced her fingers together before leaning back in the chair, as if she was ready and waiting to listen, like this was a Sunday morning back when I lived with her and we’d sit on the couch with mugs of tea and talk about anything and everything. She’d listen to me ramble on for hours about Harry and how much I missed him. And she’d listen to me talk through recipes and ingredients, giving me her full and undivided attention. She was genuinely interested in everything I had to say, just like she was with Jane and Catherine and Teddy. It was hard to lie to someone who knew me so well.
Her lips twitched into a smile, bright and wide and reeling with excitement. She pulled me into the tightest hug, squeezing the breath right out of me. “I know! I’ve known. You were absolutely out of your mind in your kitchen last week. It was the only reasonable answer. God, when did you find out? Did you go to the doctor? Does Harry know? You must be going mental! Are you okay? Are you happy about this? I know you weren’t ready a few months ago and—”
I cut her off with a laugh. “I found out Saturday. I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow. Yes, Harry knows. And I’m okay. I’m very okay with it. I’m really happy.”
She smiled, but this time her eyes were watering and she was laughing at herself. “You’re going to be so amazing, Grace. You’ll be the best mum. This baby is going to adore you.”
I laughed and pushed away a few of my own tears. “I appreciate the confidence.”
She was about to say something—I wasn’t sure what—when Catherine shuffled in all red-faced and out of breath.
“There’s my little ballerina!”
Catherine looked between us, a confused look wandering onto her face. “Why are you two crying? Did someone die? Was it Jane? Can I have her room?”
Rebecca scoffed and shook her head, collecting her things back into her arms. “No, Catherine.”
“Let’s go, you muppet,” she said and stood up. “We’ve got to get you back to school.”
Rebecca left with the promise to call me later, leaving me alone in Ren’s studio while I waited for her to get back. I probably should have called Harry to tell him I let our little secret slip and to ask him how the appointment with Snickerdoodle turned out, but when I reached for my bag to get my phone, I saw a magazine Rebecca must have left, the headline catching my eye.
‘LIAM, I’M SORRY’: ZAYN MALIK’S BOLD ATTEMPT AT REDEMPTION
I sighed and tossed the magazine aside. I didn’t want to read the garbage they had to write about him and Liam and what they thought was happening between them. It was all lies and exaggerated truths made up to sell a few issues. I tried not to let myself get angry over it, but I was. I had to watch their friendship burn firsthand and I wanted nothing more than for it to be fixed, but stories like these weren’t helping the matter. They were only going to deter Liam from ever talking to him again. Once things were settled with the baby, I was going to call him to make plans for lunch to see where his head was. Maybe enough time had passed that he wanted to make amends with Zayn.
“Sorry I was gone so long,” Ren said quickly when she came back into the room. “I—I ran into Madame Devereaux and she had a q—question about the costumes and—”
“Ren, it’s fine,” I told her. “You don’t have to apologize.”
She smiled softly and took a seat at her desk, picking up some thread and needle before getting back to work.
I tried to bite my tongue and my lips and I even fumbled with my fingers, trying to distract myself with all the cobwebs on the ceiling that I really wanted to clean, but nothing could keep me from shaking with excitement. Niall and Ren were friends. They were hanging out. I wanted to know everything.
“So…” I said, tapping my toes against the floor. “What have I missed?”
She lifted a brow. “I… made thirteen costumes last weekend. I only slept an hour.”
“I was really tired?”
I sighed loudly. I shouldn’t push it any further. Whatever it was, it was new for her and she was probably nervous and I needed to respect that.
“So… that’s all I missed?” I tried one last time.
She set the thread down. “Are you trying to ask me about Niall, Grace?”
“What?” I said quickly. “No!”
Her cheeks went pink and she shied away from me. “We’re… friends, I—I think? I don’t know. He’s really nice and patient with me. He talks a lot and that usually makes me nervous, but I like listening to him. He… um… he closed his bar early the other night and invited me over. He thought maybe if I—I was familiar with it when it was quiet, I—I’d be more comfortable when it was open.”
My heart was skipping and jumping and singing a tune I’d never heard before, leaving me nearly bouncing out of my seat. I needed to contain myself and keep my composure and stay cool. This wasn’t a big deal.
(Yes, it was.)
“It sounds like you two are becoming really good friends,” I said.
“He’s a really nice guy,” she replied. “He mentions his friend Hazel a lot. I… think they might be more than friends, though. Or were more than friends. He changes the subject really quick after he brings her up. I don’t want to upset him, so I—I just let it go.”
There were a lot of things running through my head, but the only thing I was sure of was the fact that I needed to find out Niall’s intentions soon. Hazel was going to be back in July and after her fling with Brandon, I had no idea what was going on with her.
I knew one thing, though:
I didn’t want Ren caught in the middle.
When I said Harry had the attention span of a child and the mind of a teenaged boy, I meant it wholeheartedly. We hadn’t been sitting in the exam room for more than five minutes before his knees started to shake and his feet were clicking against the linoleum floor. I tried my best not to let it bother me, but my patience was wearing thin.
“Is this what ours looks like?” He glanced over his shoulder after pulling out a baby from a plastic replica of the female reproductive system, holding it by its neck.
I sighed. “Put the fetus back in the womb, Harry.”
I didn’t mean to be so short with him. We’d been so excited about this appointment all day, but being here left me rattled with nerves. What if my blood samples came back with something wrong? What if the ultrasound showed a problem with the baby? What if all the stress and not eating was harmful? What if there wasn’t a heartbeat? I was happy the nurse already took my blood pressure because I was sure it had skyrocketed.
Harry made a face and then collapsed onto a roller chair and pushed himself over to me. He stopped at the foot of the exam table, smirking up at me until I rolled my eyes and adjusted the thin sheet over my legs.
“Wanna play doctor?” he asked with a suggestive, lopsided smile. “You can call me Dr. Styles. I’ll give you a very thorough internal examination.”
I blinked. “No, I don’t want to play doctor,” I told him. “There’s nothing sexy about an internal exam. Now, please, come over here and sit still or else we’re not getting takeout for dinner.”
He frowned at me and then let out a low huff before moving to the seat next to me. “You’re no fun.”
“I’m plenty fun,” I said and folded my hands over my stomach to keep them from shaking. “You just have a one-track mind.”
“Sorry I’m so smitten with my wife,” he replied with a pout. “I find the fact that she’s carrying our child wildly sexy.”
He told me that a lot over the last few days, which was comforting in the sense that I didn’t have to worry about him being turned off by my changing body. But I did have to wonder if he was speaking too soon. He enjoyed my fuller chest, but what would happen when my feet were swollen and I looked like a beached whale and had stretch marks? He wasn’t going to think I was sexy. Because—let’s face it—there was nothing sexy about a woman who waddled and couldn’t tie her shoes.
“Hey.” Harry’s hand grazed mine and I lifted my eyes to his. He was smiling softly, but his brow was pinched with confusion. “What’s wrong? Why do you look like you’re about to cry?”
I swallowed and shook my head. “It’s nothing.”
“No,” he said knowingly. “It’s something.”
“I’m fi—” I stopped myself and sighed. “I’m just nervous.”
“I don’t know,” I said and laid my head back. “Everything? All the stress I put myself under? The fact that I wasn’t eating? What if there’s no heartbeat? What if there’s something wrong? And I’m just gonna keep getting bigger and you’re not going to be attracted to me anymore and—”
“First of all, you don’t have to worry about me not being attracted to you. I’m quite enjoying watching your body change—”
“You’re enjoying the fact that my boobs are getting bigger,” I told him with a frown. “But what happens when everything else gets bigger and I have stretch marks and cankles?”
“I’m still gonna love you and I’m still gonna want to be with you, so please stop worrying about that.” He smiled and gave my hand a reassuring squeeze. “And I think the fact that you’re having all these symptoms and that your body is continuing to change means the baby is fine and that you’re making a really nice home for it.”
I smiled back at him and felt a little ridiculous for getting so upset about nothing. I was going to apologize to him for having to deal with all my crazy, but three quick raps on the door silenced me quickly and after I said, “Come in,” Dr. Hamilton walked in with a bright smile and a friend.
“Good afternoon,” she said in her typical cheery voice. She’d been practicing medicine for well over twenty years and I always considered her to be young and vibrant, but her friend—whose scrubs suggested he was a doctor—looked fresh out of high school. “This is Ayaan Bahl. He’s part of the hospital’s midwife training program. He’ll be shadowing me for the next six months.”
I offered him a smile as they moved over to the counter to pull my chart up on the computer.
“They have male midwives?” Harry whispered to me, his voice low and tight.
“Less than one percent of midwives are male.” Ayaan looked back at us and smiled. “But it’s rising in popularity.”
“Yeah,” Harry mumbled. “I wonder why.”
“I think it has to do with the empowerment of women and having confidence in them to labor the way they choose,” Ayaan replied as he typed something into the computer. “At least, that’s why I do it! I have six sisters and my mom teaches gender studies at University College London, so our house has always been about the empowerment of women. This was a very fitting career path for me.”
I smiled over at Harry, who looked less than impressed with that answer. He snarled and sat back in his chair.
“I didn’t know you had midwives on staff,” I said, trying my best to relax against the table. I could never win. The winters were too hot in these rooms and the almost-summers were too cold.
“We like to give our patients options,” Dr. Hamilton explained. “We just happen to beunder staffed at the minute, so young Ayaan is stuck with me.”
We’d only known I was pregnant for a few days and hadn’t thought about our options for the pregnancy and birth. I figured it was better to get everything checked and confirmed before we started making any plans. Besides, we wanted to spend those few days away just working on us. We went for walks and cooked together and I made my first batch of cupcakes (almond-cherry) after weeks of a buttercream-less life.
We still had a ways to go, but we were getting better.
“So we just need an updated history of Mum and Dad,” Ayaan said as he glanced at the screen. “It looks like we have a very thorough one for—Oh, Mrs. Styles, you’re a twin?”
My heart dropped the way it always did when Memphis was mentioned. I was getting better at talking about him, but I’d been in control of all those situations. I was the one who brought him up. Not being sad when others spoke about him was still a work in progress.
“Yes,” I finally said.
“Do multiples run in your family?”
“No, we were a surprise.”
Ayaan smiled. “Perhaps you’ll have one of those surprises yourself.”
I tried to smile, but the thought of having twins right now was terrifying. Figuring out how to be a good mother to one would be a challenge. I didn’t think I was ready for two.
The rest of our appointment was standard questions and answers. Harry and I both gave incredibly detailed medical histories, which left Ayaan typing away for a good twenty minutes. The only question I didn’t have an answer to was the date of my last cycle. As far as I could remember, it was in March, but Dr. Hamilton wasn’t convinced I was that far along. Frankly, neither was I.
“Don’t worry about it,” she told me as she wheeled the ultrasound machine over to the bed. “We’ll date it from the scan.”
It was what we’d been waiting for since we found out about the baby, our first glimpse at our son or daughter. All I could feel was nervous excitement winding through me. I looked over at Harry, assuming he felt the same way, but he just looked completely perplexed.
“What’s that thingy do?” he asked, pointing to the wand Dr. Hamilton was handing to Ayaan as he rolled over to me on his chair.
“It’s for the ultrasound,” she explained.
“Why’s it so long?”
I laughed and so did Ayaan and Dr. Hamilton. I felt more relaxed than I had before as I adjusted my back against the table. “It’s a transvaginal ultrasound, Peaches.”
I watched the color drain from Harry’s face, a pale shade of horror covering his cheeks. “I thought this thing was done over the stomach.”
“It’s still early in the pregnancy,” Ayaan replied. “We’ll get a clearer picture this way.”
Harry simply blinked, his lips parted as if he was mid-thought. I turned my attention back to Ayaan, who was motioning for me to place my feet in the stirrups.
“Wo—whoa, what are you doing there, mate?” Harry jumped out of his chair the moment Ayaan lifted the sheet that was covering me.
“I’m going to insert the transducer,” he answered.
“Sh—shouldn’t the doctor do that?”
“He’s trained,” Dr. Hamilton replied.
“I’ve done this plenty of times. I was top of my class.”
I grabbed Harry’s hand and give it a quick tug. “Relax, will you?”
He snarled and sat back down, inching his chair closer to me. I wasn’t sure if it was to get a better view of the screen, or to keep a watchful eye on Ayaan.
“Oh, I’ve just realized who you are!”
I assumed Ayaan was talking to Harry. It didn’t usually take this long for people to recognize him.
“You’re the Buttercream Beauty.” He smiled. “My mum’s got your book.”
I, on the other hand, didn’t get recognized at all. And if I did, it was just a variation of Harry Styles’s girlfriend, fiancee, or wife. It was never for my book.
“I can’t believe you married the bloke from One Direction.” He had a twisted look of amusement on his face, but before I could ask him about it, Harry cut me off with an abrupt and annoyed grumble.
“You think we can get this show on the road?” he asked. “I’d quite like to see our child.”
I thought about rolling my eyes, but never got the chance. After Harry’s comment, everything happened so fast. One moment I wanted to scold him for being ridiculous, and the next there was an image on the screen that was dark and grainy.
“There’s your baby,” Dr. Hamilton said and smiled over at us.
Nothing could have prepared me for that moment. I thought I’d felt that instant connection when I saw the positive sign, but that couldn’t be compared to this. I’d seen wonders of the world and I was amazed and in awe, but they seemed so insignificant now. Everything did, really. My whole life was now revolved around this tiny thing that I already loved so much.
“Looks a bit like a butter bean.”
I deadpanned over to Harry, blinking at him until he sputtered out a laugh.
“A really cute butter bean.”
I couldn’t be upset with him and eventually, I cracked a smile. He may have been right. Our baby did resemble a legume.
“Your little butter bean is measuring eight weeks and four days,” Ayaan said after Dr. Hamilton gave a nod of approval.
“Everything looks okay, though?” I asked, not moving my eyes from the screen. I didn’t want to miss a second of this. “Because I was really stressed early on and I wasn’t eating well and—”
The sound was distant and muffled, a steady and rhythmic ba-boom, ba-boom, ba-boom, like train tracks that were trapped underwater. It was a heartbeat—a strong, loud, perfect heartbeat.
I cried because I was happy and scared and anxious and overwhelmed. I felt everything all at once, and I probably could have spent the rest of the day crying had Harry’s hand not slipped over mine. He laced our fingers together and gave me a quick squeeze. He was crying too. And all I could do was reach over with my free hand and wipe a stray tear away from the corner of his eye with the pad of my thumb.
“Everything looks fine, Grace,” Dr. Hamilton said with so much certainty that it eased all of my worries.
“Are you sure?”
“I’m positive.” She smiled. “How does the nineteenth of January sound? Think you’d like to have a baby then?”
“That sounds perfect.”
I spent the last few minutes of the appointment trying to collect myself, so when Ayaan asked if we had any more questions, I was quick to say no. Harry, however, had a list.Literally. He pulled out a small notebook from his back pocket and started firing off questions about our rabbit and if it was safe for me to touch it. He had questions about the cow and the goat and the sheep. He even remembered my concerns about the strawberries. I couldn’t help smiling as I watched him jot down everything Dr. Hamilton said to him.
“It’s going to be really hard to keep this a secret,” Harry said after we got back to the car.
“It’s only for a couple more weeks, and then you can tell whoever you want.”
“Well,” Harry started, reversing out of the parking spot. “I already told the mailman.”
“What? You told Rebecca!”
“I didn’t tell her! She knew!”
“Well,” he repeated. “Now we’re even.”
I ignored him and dug around my bag for my phone as he turned out of the parking lot. I had a long list of things I needed to do, like go grocery shopping and finish the laundry from when we were away and check in on Walter, but all I had energy for was a nap.
And scrolling back through my calendar.
“What are you doing?” Harry asked, merging the car onto the road.
“Just counting back eight weeks and four days,” I said sheepishly, catching his glance out of the corner of my eye.
He caught my drift and smirked, chomping down on his gum with a look of satisfaction. “That was, like, mid-April, yeah?”
“It wasn’t the afternoon in the kitchen was it? Because that was really quick. I don’t think that was enough time to make a baby.”
I laughed and rolled my eyes, counting back the final days. “You have to count the two weeks before conception, so I think it was the twenty-eighth.”
“The twenty-eighth?” he asked with a lifted brow.
I thought back to that day and almost laughed at the irony. “The day I had the panic attack.”
I looked over at Harry as he swiped his tongue along his bottom lip. I could see him replaying the events in his head before he smiled. “That was a good night.”
“It was a really good night.”
In retrospect, I hadn’t planned on spending our first wedding anniversary alone, but a rousing round of morning sickness and my prenatal vitamin left me feeling so unwell that I spent most of the day in bed. Harry brought me tea and toast and offered to lay down with me, but I just wanted to sleep. Besides, it was too nice of a day for him to spend it cooped up inside. He got antsy and bored, like a child. Surely there were more productive things he could be doing instead of lounging around with someone who was far more interested in counting down the days and weeks until she was in her second trimester.
(Three weeks and zero days!)
I did, however, start to feel better by late afternoon, so I found myself soaking in a bath that smelled of gardenias and jasmine while I tried to conjure up a plan for the rest of the evening. I had to attempt to make our anniversary as special as possible. After we found out I was pregnant, celebrating our wedding seemed to slip down in importance in favor of a doctor’s appointment and a trip to the vet. Last month we briefly talked about going back to Italy, but since we weren’t, I figured I could try to bring our honeymoon to us. We wouldn’t be wine tasting in Tuscany or swimming in the beaches of Sicily, but it would be special in its own way.
And that’s when I decided the only reasonable thing to do was make chocolate chip cannoli cupcakes. Those were what I made for our wedding and even though I had the top tier in the freezer, I couldn’t bring myself to eat cupcakes that had been frozen for a year. It would have been fine if it was just me, but I had someone else to think about now and I felt like year-old frozen cupcakes were probably on my list of dietary restrictions.
I found baking therapeutic on a normal day, but there was something special about standing in the same kitchen a year after baking the same cupcakes for our wedding. I could remember being so stressed and frazzled, unwilling to take help from anyone. I wanted to make sure everything was perfect, so naturally I had to do everything myself. I was still as careful and considerate of ingredients and measurements today as I was then, but I didn’t have the weight of getting married on my shoulders. I was calm and collected and I was enjoying myself.
They said that the first year was the hardest, but I hadn’t realized at the time just how hard it was going to be. We had the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, hitting rock bottom before we had to dig ourselves out. We learned more about each other this year than we had in the past six. I was mostly to blame for that, but I was getting better about talking about Memphis and owning my feelings. I had faith that getting through this meant that we could get through anything. It was important before but especially now. It wasn’t just us anymore. Along with marriage counseling and making some sort of amends with my parents, I didn’t expect to be expecting after a year. I had plans for a bakery and a book, but life had other ideas. And while those ideas were marginally terrifying, I was happy. The plus side was that I had someone to be terrified with.
Harry sent me a text as I was setting the timer saying that he was picking up dinner and that he’d be home in an hour, which was great because the only things I had on my mind were cupcakes.
After some piping and platter arrangements, I ran upstairs to change into something a little more festive than pajama shorts and an old t-shirt. I had the theme of the night in mind, so I dug around my lingerie chest until I found a few things from last year. I had hopes of wearing what I wore on our wedding night, but it was small and tight then, so I wasn’t going to attempt to squeeze into it now. I settled on a slip I wore on a warm night in Tuscany just as I heard the front door open, Harry’s drawling voice floating up the stairs to inform me that he was home.
He was standing in the hall as I hit the last step, fastening the tie of my robe at my waist as I watched him empty his pockets onto the table by the door. He set his phone down next to a paper bag before dropping his wallet and keys, a routine I drilled into his brain after I got so fed up having to empty his pockets every time I did laundry.
“Where’ve you been all day?”
He turned around, pausing to give me a once over before smiling slowly. “Here and there.”
“Here and where exactly?”
Harry shrugged my question off and grabbed the paper bag off the table, heading into the kitchen without another word. It wasn’t that I was mad he’d been gone all day. I was the one that told him to go out. I just wasn’t sure why he was being secretive.
“You made cupcakes?” he asked and set the bag down on the counter, opening the cabinet above and grabbed two wine glasses. “I thought you weren’t feeling well?”
“I felt better after a nap and bath,” I told him. “And in case you forgot, I can’t drink.”
“In case I forgot,” Harry jeered out a scoff. “Like the fact that you’re pregnant and we’re having a baby aren’t the only things I’ve been thinking about. Give me some credit, will you? I picked up grape juice.”
“We’re going to drink grape juice out of wine glasses?”
“Yes, because we’re adults and it’s our wedding anniversary.”
I laughed, but quickly decided the gesture was cute and I was lucky to have such a creative husband.
“So was it grape juice that had you gone all day?”
Harry smiled before digging into the paper bag he’d set on the counter. “Ah, yes, I was scouring every Waitrose in all the land to find the perfect blend of corn syrup and grape concentrate.” He shot me a look over his shoulder that was all grins and dimples. “I met my mum in Northampton.”
“Because I didn’t feel like driving all the way to Staffordshire.”
I lifted a brow and leaned against the counter. “What’s in Staffordshire—”
I stopped myself as he pulled out a few aluminum takeout containers and put the pieces together. We were married in the West Midlands of Staffordshire, a small barn ceremony that I wouldn’t have changed for the world. It wasn’t anything fancy. It felt very backyard and homey with twinkling fairy lights and and a band playing outside under the stars. There was a lot of laughing and smiling and I got butterflies just thinking about it.
“Did you have the venue make our wedding menu?” I asked, my eyes and my mouth watering.
“Maybe,” he replied sheepishly and I could tell he was smiling despite not seeing his face. “But not that weird fish thing you insisted we have as an option. It smelt like Niall’s bunk at the end of a tour.”
I pushed a few tears away and when he turned around—holding two containers—I reached up and cupped his cheeks with my hands, bringing him down to my level so I could kiss him. He groaned against my lips and I held him there for a moment, tasting the lingering minty sweetness of his gum before I pulled away. “Thank you.”
The good thing about our menu was that Harry wriggled his nose at the butternut squash tortellini, which meant I got to eat the whole container of it. Eating for two only meant adding an extra three hundred calories to my diet, but I figured that since I typically ate in moderation, I could splurge a little since it was a special occasion, so between sips of grape juice and bites of tortellini, I stole a few forkfuls of Harry’s roasted chicken. I smiled sweetly whenever he’d snarl at me, mentioning something about how the baby needed protein as I ate his last bite.
After we finished, Harry went upstairs to get undressed while I cleaned up the kitchen. I loaded the dishwasher and wiped down the counters and then grabbed the platter of cupcakes before getting comfortable in the living room. I lit a few candles and loosened my robe just as Harry walked in, toting a sly grin on his lips and a pale purple gift bag in his hand. He hadn’t bothered to change into anything, simply strolling in wearing only his boxer-briefs.
“Now I remember that,” he told me with certainty in his voice as his eyes wandered over the silk and white lace of my robe. “Mostly I remember taking it off.”
I rolled my eyes and blew out the match. “I’m surprised you remember anything at all.”
“You can’t expect me to go to a wine tasting and not take advantage.”
“You were supposed to sip it and let it rest on your palate,” I replied and plopped down on the couch. “You threw every glass back like a shot.”
“I needed something to get me through how painfully mundane the entire experience was.”
“Well, if you weren’t into it, you should have suggested somewhere different. Italy was your idea.”
“Because you always talked about wanting to spend more time there,” he said as he sat down next to me, dropping the gift bag onto my lap. “Would you like to open your presents?”
I looked down and ran my fingers over the white tissue paper peeking out of the bag, an instant wave of sadness rushing through me. I could feel the threat of tears in my eyes. “I didn’t… I completely forgot… I don’t have a gift for you.”
I was usually so on top of these things. I bought birthday presents months in advance, always having my holiday shopping done before the Christmas rush. I couldn’t believe I let this slip my mind.
“Grace,” Harry laughed and leaned in to brush a tear away. “You’re having our baby. That’s the best gift you could ever give me.”
“You’re just saying that so I won’t cry.”
“No, I’m not,” he replied with a smile. “Besides, one’s not even for you and the other is for the both of us.”
That didn’t make me feel any better, but now I was curious, so I pulled out the tissue paper and grabbed the first thing in the bag, which was just something wrapped in more tissue paper. I unwrapped it as Harry watched, a flutter of anticipation in my stomach.
It was tiny and small and white and made of the softest material I’d ever felt, embossed with faint stars and a hood with cute little ears. It was a snowsuit the perfect size for a newborn.
“Harry,” I whispered and sniffled back the tears.
“It’s going to be cold in January when we bring the baby home, so I thought maybe it could wear this.”
I nodded and nodded and nodded, wiping a few tears before leaning over to kiss him quickly on the lips. “It’s perfect. I love it.”
He smiled and nudged his head to the bag. “There’s still one more thing in there. I checked online and a bunch of sites said you’re supposed to give paper for your first anniversary.”
I mulled around some loose tissue and pulled out a white envelope from the bottom of the bag. He hadn’t bothered to seal it, so I lifted the flap and pulled out a piece of paper. It was an itinerary, a conformation of a trip that would be happening at the beginning of September.
“We’re going to Sorrento?”
Harry grinned. “We couldn’t go away for this, so I figured we could for our babymoon. I also thought it would be nice to go somewhere we’ve never been. And I checked with the doctor and she said it’s the safest to travel between eighteen and twenty-four weeks and that’ll be around the time of our six year and I just thought, y’know, lots to celebrate.” He let out a breath and chuckled before collapsing back against the couch.
“I’m so excited,” I laughed and looked down at the paper just to make sure it was real. “Thank you for this.”
“You’re quite welcome.”
We eventually decided to watch the video of our wedding. Or, I guess, I decided we’d watch that, which left Harry complaining minimally as he dug around on his hands and knees trying to find the case that our movie cabinet seemed to have swallowed. I sat comfortably against a pillow, peeling back the liner of a cupcake as I reached for the remote. I turned the TV on and Harry sat back on his heels, fanning through a few cases, the nightly news flashing across the screen.
“Got it,” Harry said, but I was paying more attention to the segment that just started and the familiar face they were talking about.
“No, don’t!” I stopped him quickly before he could turn the DVD player on.
“Love is in the air for former Westend star, Chelsea King! The reality-star-turned-jewelry-designer is newly engaged to her boyfriend of two years, film director, Oscar Valdez. The two met at the Cannes Film Festival in 2017 and have been dating since. No word on when the wedding will be held, but we do know that former co-star and friend, Flannery O’Rorke, won’t be in attendance. The heir to O’Rorke Enterprise starts his five month sentence for tax evasion charges in October.”
“I’m so happy for her,” I cried, crumbs flying out of my mouth. “We should send them something.”
Harry screwed up one brow and snarled. “No, we shouldn’t.”
“Of course we should!” I replied, chewing the rest of my cupcake before swallowing. “Maybe a basket of fruit or one of wine and cheese. Oh, I can make them engagement cupcakes! Like I did for us!”
He stood up and finally turned the DVD player on, sliding the disc in. “Why are you so excited about this?”
“Because I’m happy she’s happy!”
We hadn’t seen much of Chelsea over the years. There were run-ins at charity events and award show after parties, but nothing that left us with time to catch up. I wasn’t sure if we actually had anything to catch up on, or if she even wanted to catch up with me, but I wanted to know everything about her. We always said cordial hellos, but were always rushing off in different directions. I was so happy to know she’d found her happiness.
“I did always hope she’d be happy with Brandon, though,” I said after a moment, sighing as Harry flopped onto the couch.
“That was like six years ago.”
I shrugged. “I know, but it would have been nice. She did visit him in Ohio a few times! I remember Brandon telling me he took her to an Ohio State game and she sat there with a nail file. I don’t know how because they were playing Michigan and you know you have to keep your eyes on them.”
Harry sighed. “This isn’t a book, Grace. It’s life. Not everyone gets a happy ending.”
“We did.” I smiled.
“I know, but not everyone else is as lucky,” he explained, though I already knew that. Happy endings came in all different shapes and sizes. “Besides, I’m sure Brandon isn’t losing sleep over it. Hazel finally nailed him. All of his wildest dreams came true.”
I paused for a moment as he clicked through the menu. “How did you find out about that?”
“What do you mean?” Harry leaned forward and grabbed a cupcake. “You told me a few weeks ago.”
“I did?” I’ll admit that my head had been all sorts of frazzled, but I thought I’d remember that.
“Yeah, when we were watching TV on the couch after an appointment with Flora,” he explained. “It was the night I let you watch Dancing with the Stars.”
“Oh, I don’t remember,” I said and shrugged, not dwelling on it as I grabbed another cupcake. “I must have pregnancy brain already.”
Whether that was true or not, I wasn’t sure, but I definitely had the pregnancy emotions down pat. I was bawling my eyes before Jane and Catherine got down the aisle on the film. Harry had to go into the kitchen to grab a box of tissues for me, plucking a few out as I sniffled into my third cupcake.
“It’s gonna be seven more months of this, isn’t it?” he asked, his arm resting against the back of the couch as I curled into him. “I mean, you were a crier before, but now I think I’ll have to buy stock in Kleenex.”
“I’m sorry! They say it’s supposed to get better in the second trimester.”
“I’m just teasing you,” he laughed. “I’m quite looking forward to how nutty you’ll be acting.”
“Well,” I said as the scene in the movie switched to our receptions. “If it’s something you’re looking forward to, then you won’t think I’m crazy for asking you to dance with me right now.”
He blinked and then scrunched his face into adorable wrinkles. “No, I definitely think you’re crazy. I’m not dancing.”
“But it’s our anniversary.”
“I know. I just booked us a lovely trip. I even splurged for an oceanfront suite.”
“You can dance with me there too.”
He frowned. “Did you forget about the snowsuit I bought our child, so it won’t freeze in the dead of winter? I’m very thoughtful. I’m already Father of the Year.”
“You can still dance with me,” I said and got up off the couch, wrapping my hand around his.
“Please,” I begged and tugged on his hand. “I want to dance with you right now. It would make me really happy.”
Maybe I was asking a lot out of him. He’d gone out of his way to get us dinner and he booked that trip and bought the baby its first outfit. He’d done so much and I’d done so little. A dozen cupcakes seemed like nothing compared to all of that. But I wanted to dance with him and be close to him and hold him the way I did on our wedding. Maybe I was being greedy and selfish, but I would always be that way with him, especially after the last few weeks when we were so distant.
Harry let out a slow sigh and got off the couch, huffing out a few more breaths for dramatics before pulling me against him. He was so warm and soft and smelled of the ginger and leatherwood of his cologne with hints of citrus from the shower he took this morning.
“You’re a pain in my arse,” he said quiet, draping his arms over my shoulders as I secured mine around his waist. I looked up at him and smiled.
“But you still love me.”
“Quite a lot, honestly.”
I smiled and placed my head on his chest and we swayed in the living room as the song we danced to a year ago played over the TV—a song Harry chose because his mom used to make him dance in the kitchen with her to it when he was young. I loved when something had a meaning or a memory attached to it. It made it all the more special. That was the reason I spent most of my life with the idea in my head that I’d dance to my parents’ wedding song when it came time for my own. But the hope I’d had as a little girl had been tarnished along with all the other memories I’d had of my parents and I’d pushed the prospect of ever dancing to it out of my head.
But Harry knew it was important to me, which was why our wedding song faded into another song and that song was by Paul Simon. I cried when I heard it that night. It didn’t matter that I was in a room full of people who didn’t understand. I cried and I cried and I cried and Harry pushed tear after tear after tear away. It was my parents’ song. It still mattered then and it mattered now. And when I cried tonight, Harry brushed his thumb against my cheek just like he did on our wedding day.
“I can’t believe it’s been a year,” Harry said a little while later after we moved back to the couch. I was laying on my back against a pillow, Harry tucked at my side with his head on my chest as I twirled a piece of his hair.
“I can’t believe it’s been six.”
“And by this time next year we’ll have have a little one running around,” Harry hummed, his lips ghosting over my neck, leaving a trail of chills running down my back.
“I think you’re strangely misinformed about a six-month-old’s development,” I laughed. “She’ll be sitting up.”
Harry stayed quiet and I felt his lips against my jaw for a moment before they found their way to my lips as he pushed himself up to my level. He stole a long, lazy kiss that knocked the wind right out of me.
“You said she,” he whispered against the corner of my mouth.
“Or he,” I corrected myself. “I don’t know.”
I felt Harry smile and his hands slipped over the tie of my robe, blindly undoing the loose knot before he pushed it open. Swinging his knee over and straddling me, he gave me one more kiss on the lips as his fingers smoothed over my thighs and hips, pushing the silk of my slip up until it was bunched around my ribs. He squirmed down the length of my body and placed his lips on the lace of my underwear—right against my center—and my eyes fluttered shut as I sucked in a sharp breath. He only lingered there a moment before peppering short kisses along my hipbone and naval.
“Do you have a preference?” he asked and I had no idea what he was referring to. I felt drunk, despite not having anything stronger than grape juice.
“Yeah, if you could go just a bit lower,” I breathed, licking my lips. “That would be great.”
He let out a gruff laugh, feathering a few more kisses over my stomach. “I meant on the sex of our child. Do you have a preference?”
“Just happy and healthy.”
“So you’d be okay with either?”
“Mhm,” I mumbled and his lips were pressed against my ribs and then over my slip, ghosting gently over my chest. If it was his goal to torture me, it was working. Every inch of my body was tingling, buzzing with a need for him.
“A girl that’s exactly like you?” he asked, leaving a chaste kiss against the nape of my neck that drew a smile over my lips.
“A boy that’s…” I teased and knotted my fingers into his hair.
I laughed and pulled him down for a kiss, nipping his lower lip. “I’m kidding,” I told him. “I’d love to have a little boy with your snarl.”
He pouted, but continued to kiss me until I was groaning into his lips, my hands slipping out of his hair and over his neck to pull him closer. We kissed and kissed and kissed, indulging in each other as if we were the only two people in the world that mattered. And when it was just us tangled up together, we were the only two people that mattered. Lost in each other without a worry or a care, we kissed each other breathless.
“Take me upstairs,” I breathed against his lips.
“What do you have in mind when we get up there?”
“A few things.”
“Care to share?” he hummed and dragged his lips over my jaw and neck, sucking gently against my skin until his name fell off my tongue. “What was that?”
“Harry,” I whined. “Take me upstairs.”
He did… eventually. After a few more minutes of me wriggling beneath him, he scooped me up and brought me to our bed where we spent a majority of the night wrapped up in each other—gasping and grappling—as our bodies moved to the rhythm of us.