“Kent had a cart with ten cases inside, leaving none for me. I asked him if there was a way I could have one of the cases, and he huffed and said, ‘You should’ve showed up earlier, idiot’ before he proceeded to take all of them and leave the store. I raced home and by the time he pulled into his driveway, I was harassing him about being a jerk and taking all of the root beer, and I kept pestering him about why he needed all of them. He turned to me—you know the slow, spine-chilling, Kent Myers turn—and with a deep growl he said, ‘My boy is coming up here to visit for the week and he only drinks root beer. Now get the hell off of my property, you redheaded freak.’” Simon’s laughter faded a little, and he gave me a small smile. “Yes, Kent Myers was an asshole, but he sure did love his son.”
I pounded my fist against my mouth as I watched Abigail walk up to the podium next. She smiled my way. “Kent Myers was an asshole. We had the unfortunate pleasure of sitting across from each other at our chemotherapy appointments. Or as Kent liked to call it, ‘Fuck this bullshit in the fucking ass.’ He had a way with words. He always gave the nurses a hard time, calling them dumbasses when they missed his veins for the IVs. He called one nurse Susie, even though his name was Steven. He called me the annoyingly positive cancer girl who quoted dead people.
“It was kind of his thing, you know? To be a jerk. That’s how you knew he was going to be okay. There was only one day when he wasn’t rude. I remember walking out of the clinic and seeing him sit on the curb with his head in his hands. I sat down beside him, and he told me not to quote any damn dead people. So we just sat for a long time. Then he finally said, ‘I was supposed to have more time with him. I was supposed to have more time to fix my mistakes.’ Kent Myers was an asshole, but he sure did love his son.”
Aria walked up last for her speech. Her eyes locked in on mine and she gave me a half grin. “I spent the past two months eating lunch with Kent Myers. There are many things I could say about your father, Levi. I’d learned so many interesting things, but…” She closed her eyes and gripped the edge of the podium. “But…” Her hands were turning red from how hard she was holding onto the podium.
“Aria?” Simon asked warily.
“I’m fine, just give me a second. Crap.” She pounded her fist against the podium before she stood up tall and gave me a smile. “I had a really fantastic speech ready. It was going to be e-pic,” she stuttered. “Epic. But, well, I guess my water just broke, so I kind of need to get to the hospital.”
Lance and Daisy jumped up quickly, ushering Aria to their car. Simon called Aria’s parents and his parents to meet us at the hospital. I rode in the back of the car with Aria. “I’m sorry I ruined your dad’s funeral,” she cried.
I couldn’t help but laugh. “You didn’t ruin it, Art.” I kissed her forehead, combing her hair behind her ear. “You didn’t ruin anything.”
“I missed you so much.”
I kissed her forehead again.
I’d missed her so much more.
Mom and Dad were already at the hospital by the time I arrived. It was seven long hours of terrible contractions before the doctors decided it was time to bring Honeydew into the world.
Everything was a blur. It happened fast, faster than I thought it would, faster than I wanted it to. I was supposed to have a few more weeks with him. I wasn’t supposed to have to let go just yet.
The doctor told me to push.
Dad held my left hand.
Keira held my right.
Mom placed a wet napkin onto my forehead.
Simon’s dad tried his best not to faint.
I cried because of the pain. I cried because of the nerves. I cried because it was really happening.
I was angry. I was depressed. I was happy.
I was so freaking happy.
Push, Aria. Do this!
And then the room went silent. They told me to stop pushing.
Everything in my head started spinning. My baby was there, I could see him. But the doctor started hurrying. The nurses acted nervous. Everyone surrounded the baby. Except me. I was stuck in the bed, looking up, asking what was wrong, praying nothing was wrong.
He wasn’t crying. He was very silent. He was beautiful. Why wasn’t he crying?
Please. Make noise. Make a sound.
I cried for him until he could for himself.
And then he did.
His lungs finally moved. They became stronger as he screamed, proclaiming his arrival to the world.
“Do you want to hold him?” the nurse asked.
I nodded my head.
Of course I do.
She placed him in my arms, and my tears fell against his skin.
I knew it was silly, but I swore he was smiling. My lips fell to his forehead. “I love you,” I softly spoke. “So, so much.”
My stare met Keira’s as she grinned my way. “Do you want to hold him?”
She sobbed and nodded. “Yes. Yes. Yes.”
I handed him over to her, and she kissed my cheek. Paul stood beside his wife, staring down at the new life in their world. The way they studied every inch of him showed me how safe he was. He would always know love.
By then everyone in the room was crying.
I cried some more. From that point on, his tears would be wiped away by someone else. His laughter and happiness would be created from another’s soul.
But his heartbeats?
I felt sure I would always feel those against my own.
* * *
I shot to my feet along with everyone else as Mr. and Mrs. Watson walked into the waiting room. “How’s Aria? How’s the baby?” I asked, frantic.