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“I’m sorry for everything,” I said to him, knowing I was the reason our parents had been so thrown off lately.

He glanced my way before grabbing more cake. “If anyone gives you any more shit at school, just send them to me. I’ll handle it.”

* * *

The next night, James and Nadine came over to hang out with Mike. As always, Nadine and James stopped in to check on me. I guessed James found a way to fall back in love with her. I hated how wonderful Nadine was—she deserved more than her current boyfriend who was much more interested in meddling in my life than focusing on her.

“Any updates?” Nadine asked about the baby.

I nodded. “I decided to give the baby up for adoption.” My stare moved to James. “I want Simon’s parents to have the baby. They’ve been struggling for so long, and I really want the baby to grow up in a loving family with a mom and dad who are together. I’m supposed to tell the father to get his permission, but I think he’ll be fine with the idea.”

James’ eyebrows lowered and his mouth tightened. Nadine frowned for a split second before she smiled. “I think that’s so brave, actually, Aria.” She nodded. “You’re really brave.”

He cleared his throat before agreeing with his girlfriend. “Yeah, I think that’s great. I’m sure the dad would be fine with the idea.”

29 Levi

It was funny how the things you once hated became the things you missed the most. Mom hadn’t called me in a few days. The phone calls that I’d hated with her at random hours of the night had become a part of my routine. I missed her begging for me to come home. I missed her telling me how awful I was treating her. I missed her voice, her overprotective nature, her overbearing love.

When I called the house, she would answer, but she’d tell me she was busy and hang up.

I felt as if she was over it—over the idea of trying to get me to come home to be with her.

So instead of her worrying about me, I began worrying about her.

Where was her mind?

Was she healthy?

Was she happy?

Was she still struggling with fake fears and harsh realities?

I called Denise to see if she’d checked in on Mom like she’d promised. When she answered, she sounded extremely pleased. “Levi, she’s checking into a health clinic!” Denise exclaimed.

“What? Why? Is she okay?”

“She’s going to St. John’s Music Wellness Clinic. They’ve been known for their use of music to help people who suffer like your mom. It’s the first place that I wanted to send her, but she never would’ve agreed before.”

“What made her change her mind?”

“I don’t know. You know you’re mom—when she’s up, she’s up. And when she’s down, she’s down. I guess we caught her in an up moment. But no matter what, this is good news, Levi. Really, really good news!”

“How can I talk to her?” I asked.

She went silent for a moment. “I think we should let her get settled first. They are starting her on new medicines and treatments. Maybe give her a week or two.”

Denise went on to ask about Dad, and I proceeded to lie because she would’ve been like Mom and wanted me to come home if she knew how crappy things were. When she hung up, I still kept thinking about Mom.

I missed her so much lately. Her confused mind and all.

Maybe this time would be different.

Maybe this time, the medicine and treatment would work.

I went to the woods that night and played my violin for her. I stood on the largest rock, allowing the cold air to pass by me. I remembered how she used to play music in the forest with me back home. She was always the better musician.

I missed her sounds the most.

30 Aria

I was twenty weeks pregnant, sitting in the doctor’s office with Mom on my left and Simon’s parents on my right. It wasn’t completely official with paperwork and all, but I knew what I wanted to do: I wanted to give the baby to Keira and Paul. I also knew there was no way Keira was going to miss this appointment. Even though Paul never missed work, he’d taken the day off to be there. Paul was the grownup version of Simon with his red hair and freckled face. He didn’t wear glasses, but that was only because he popped contacts into his eyes every morning. The main difference between Paul and Simon was that Simon was a lot more emotional than Paul. Paul had much thicker skin than Simon and things didn’t get to him as much. He never talked much, and mostly all I received from him were smiles when I went over to their house, but they were always nice smiles.

The room was silent except for the ultrasound machine humming. The technician rubbed the cool gel on my stomach before they slid the transducer back and forth over my belly. She studied the ultrasound with a smile on her lips. “This one has a strong heartbeat. At twenty weeks they’re about the size of a—”

“Cantaloupe!” Keira clapped her hands as she smiled wide with excitement.

The technician nodded. “Yup! The size of a cantaloupe. You know your stuff.” I knew that, too. “And we want to know the sex today, right?”

“Yes!” Keira shouted, and then she quickly covered her mouth. Her eyes moved to me. “I mean, only if you want to, Aria.”

“Yes, we do,” I replied.

“It’s a—”

“Boy,” I whispered, already having a feeling.

“A boy.” The technician smiled toward me. “It must have been that mother’s ESP. Congratulations. I’ll have the pictures printed off and pass them to the doctor who will be in to speak with you afterward.”