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“Good. Good. Both Aria and the baby are doing great. A handsome seven pounds six ounces boy with ten fingers, ten toes, and a beautiful smile,” Mrs. Watson said. Simon released the breath he’d been holding for the past seven hours and hugged Abigail tightly.

I stepped closer to Aria’s parents. “Is she okay? Can I see her?”

Mrs. Watson frowned. “She’s resting, Levi. Plus, you’ve had quite the day. Maybe you should be resting, too.”

My shoulders dropped. “Yeah, okay.”

“Five minutes wouldn’t hurt, though,” Mr. Watson said, placing a comforting hand on my shoulder. “Come on, buddy.”

He walked me back to the room Aria was in, and I looked in to see her staring out the window.

“She’s not okay,” he said. “She’ll probably say she is, but she’s not, and she might not be for a while.”

I nodded in understanding.

“Just let her know that it’s okay to hurt a little, all right? I’ll be back to get you in a few.” He stuffed his hands into his pockets and walked away.

With a slow pace, I stepped inside the room.

“Aria,” I whispered. I watched as her body curled up a bit, her response to the sound of my voice.

“If you want to see the baby, he’s in the room across the hall. The hospital has a room for the adopting parents to be with the baby. Isn’t that nice?” She didn’t look my way. Her eyes were still trained on the window.

“It’s okay to be sad,” I said, taking a step closer to her. She tensed up. “Please look at me.” But she wouldn’t look.

She couldn’t.

* * *


“Art,” he whispered again, his words sounding so close I was almost positive they came from within my own soul. “Look at me.”

I couldn’t look.

I wouldn’t.

Even though all I wanted in the world was for his eyes to bring me the light. I wanted those lips to tell me that everything would be okay.

My need to cry grew heavier and heavier as my body shook, but I didn’t shed a tear. “I’m okay,” I finally said, feeling in every bone of my body that I wasn’t okay. I was empty inside. My light was gone. It was all so overwhelming, because no books had trained me for this. No books told me what it would be like to let go.

Levi’s hand landed on my shoulder before he climbed into the hospital bed and wrapped me up in his embrace. I shivered when I felt his fingers touch my skin for the first time in a long time as his arms wrapped around me.

“I’m fine.” My voice trembled as my body shook along with it.

“Shh…” he hushed me, holding me closer and closer. “I love you, Art. I love you so much. Let me be strong for us right now. Let me hold you while you fall apart.”

His touch was so warm.

The tears fell.

My body was shaking uncontrollably as Levi held on strong, refusing to let go. We stayed like that for five minutes straight, maybe even ten.

His fingers pressed into my sides as his face lay against my cheek. His warm tears intermixed with mine, and we cried. We cried for the recent death in our lives, and the new life. For the beginnings and the endings. For the first breaths, and the last.

I rotated my body to face him. His gaze searched my face, as if he was wondering where my mind had escaped to. His brow grew knit and gloomy.

“I’m so sorry, Art.” His lips hardened, and he pressed them to my forehead as he spoke. “I’m so sorry.”

“Me too,” I said. “Me too.”

“We’ll be all right,” he promised me. “Just not today.”

45 Levi

Aria was in the hospital for the next two days. When Mr. and Mrs. Watson brought her home, I was waiting on her porch with my violin. I leaped up and hurried over to them.

She stepped out of the backseat and gave me a warily smile. She looked exhausted.

“Levi, hey. How are you?” Mrs. Watson grinned my way.

“I’m okay. How are you?” I asked her. My eyes moved to Aria. “How are you?”

Aria’s eyes blinked. She shrugged.

“I think she just needs some rest. Maybe you can come back in a little while?” Mrs. Watson offered.

I watched her daughter’s lips part as if she wanted me to stay, but then her dad agreed with her mom.

My fingers ran through my hair and I nodded. “Yeah, of course. I’ll be back later.”

I walked around the block a few times before I headed to Aria’s bedroom window, which was already opened, waiting for me to step inside. She sat on her mattress as I started playing the violin. Mr. Watson stepped into the doorway when he heard the sounds, but instead of asking me to leave, he closed the door, giving Aria and I privacy.

I played “All Of Me” by John Legend, allowing the strings to voice the words I wasn’t saying. I played the song over and over again until she fell asleep with a smile on her lips.

And I kept playing until I knew she was smiling in her dreams, too.

* * *

She was doing better and better each day, but I knew she was still hurting. I wished I could take her pain and make it go away.

After a few days, I convinced Lance to allow me to stay at Dad’s house for a night. When I opened his refrigerator, I almost lost it seeing the cases of root beer sitting inside.

I’m still hurting. I wish I could take my pain and make it go away.

Grabbing a pack of root beer, I headed out to the woods and climbed up to the tree house.

The quietness of nature was peaceful, but I was happy when I heard a grumbling girl climbing up the ladder.