Authors: Janet Eckford
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Multicultural & Interracial
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© 2013 Janet Eckford
Editor: Katriena Knights
Cover Art: Marteeka Karland
Books are NOT transferable. Re-selling, sharing or giving eBooks is a copyright infringement.
Thanks to my Weyward Sisters for encouraging me to finish this forgotten WIP.
Charlie looked at the baby clothes on the rack as she absently rubbed her belly. She was constantly amazed at how clothes so small could cost so much. Smiling fondly at a green onesie with a flower print on it, she knew that she couldn’t resist though. She’d gone on several shopping sprees lately, but there always seemed to be one more item that was too cute to turn down.
“Can I help you?”
Charlie turned to the saleswoman and smiled an acknowledgement. “No thank you, just trying to pass the time. I’m constantly amazed at how quickly want becomes need when it comes to baby things.”
With a quirk of her lips the saleswoman replied jovially, “Well, it looks like you’ll need stuff pretty soon.”
Absently rubbing her belly again, Charlie let out a soft chuckle. She had never thought of herself as the maternal type, but as her third trimester quickly wound down, she was excited to be a mother. As if sensing her thoughts, her baby began active kicks against the walls of her belly. She could remember the first time she felt the pitter-patter of little feet. It was both frightening and exhilarating to think she cradled such a precious gift inside her. The fierce little kicks of her baby were constant reminders that “never say never” was a mantra she needed to continually live by.
“Tell me about it. I actually only have a few more weeks, but it feels like it’s forever,” Charlie confided to the saleswoman.
She could tell the other woman was going to settle in for a chat. This was one of the odd predicaments of pregnancy she had to get used to. She was constantly stopped and asked about the minute details of her pregnancy. There was advice given whether it was wanted or unwanted. Little old ladies cooed and petted her, promised that this would be the best decision she’d ever make. It was a surprise initially to find herself the member of an exclusive club of women, but oddly enough, she’d come to enjoy the positive attention. She discreetly looked around the trendy shop and saw there were no other customers and felt better about monopolizing the woman’s time.
As they stood there and talked about baby things and birthing options, Charlie was faintly aware she had become “that” woman. The woman she had sometimes scorned because of her single-minded attention to babies. She had friends who had taken the plunge, and she had those who day dreamed about being parents, and every time they brought up the subject of babies she’d shrugged her shoulders and smiled indulgently. She was young enough and free enough from the constraints of adult life that the idea of caring for a person so vulnerable didn’t sound that pleasurable. Charlie felt she had a world to conquer, and having a baby was not going to get her where she needed to be. Rubbing her belly again, she smiled and thought how quickly her world had changed. She was standing in the boutique comparing home birth versus hospitalization with a complete stranger and had to admit she’d never been happier.
Of course, if she had been surprised at how well she was taking to impending motherhood, her family and friends were completely flabbergasted. She was a free spirit wild child who they watched with a fond smile and exaggerated sighs. Charlie walked to her own beat, and if there were others in her path she could often convince them to join the procession. There was always the hope that she would settle down into the sedate life her parents had dreamed of for their children. Of course, as her mother had repeatedly complained, they didn’t expect her to put the cart before the horse and have a baby with no husband. As much as her mother longed for a grandchild, her more conservative sensibilities were perturbed there was no father to complete the image of a happy family she envisioned for her only daughter. Charlie continued to rub her rounded belly as she tried to prevent her mind from wandering in that direction.
When she’d had her small affair with Grant Carter, she’d had no idea it would result in a pregnancy. Obsessive about birth control, Charlie was completely shocked when her doctor delivered the news at a routine check-up. Initially, she hadn’t hesitated at the thought of terminating the pregnancy. She was not in a relationship, her career was beginning to take off, and to be honest she had never thought of herself as a mother. Although her family might think of her as the free spirit wild child, Charlie was incredibly practical when it came to the realities of life. Her family could be as supportive as possible, but at the end of the day, she thought about how she would be as a single mother.
That night, as she stared at her darkened ceiling, tucked under her plush comforter, she cried. The tears perplexed her initially because she’d thought the news hadn’t impacted her. She’d made a decision and was going to stick to it. Charlie buried her head in her pillow and sobbed because for the first time in her life she wasn’t completely sure about her life choices. Fear gnawed at her from the inside out, and she didn’t know how to make it stop. She feared she’d embarrass her parents because instead of reaching farther than they could have grasped, she’d settled for being a statistic. She feared telling her brothers, particularly her twin, because as much as she wanted to think of herself as a liberated woman who could make her own decisions, they would always think of her as their baby sister who needed to be protected.
She curled in a ball and cried until all her fears played on a continual loop in her head. There wouldn’t be that promotion she’d worked so hard for. She feared rejection by the father of her child and having to carry the burden of making a mistake. She also feared possible regret if she didn’t have her child. It was the hardest night of her life but eventually, when she’d cried until there were no tears left, she realized she’d never let fear control her life. In that moment, she knew she would keep her baby and formulated a plan to adjust her world to accommodate a new life.
The day she sat down and told her parents about her pregnancy had been as she’d expected, yet in some ways a surprise. There wasn’t shame, but she’d be deceiving herself if she didn’t acknowledge some disappointment. They wanted to make sure she was happy and healthy. She was their baby girl who would soon have a baby of her own, their first grandchild, and the amount of excitement and joy they expressed warmed her heart. Of course, her decision to not reveal who the father was did not go over well, but in the end she was their adult child and they respected the choice she made.
Her brothers were a bit reserved. As the youngest with three older brothers, even if one was only older by two minutes, Charlie had learned to stand behind her convictions. When the oldest, Thomas, asked about the father, Charlie had simply explained there wasn’t one.
“Wow, Mom, who knew you gave birth to a saint? Immaculate conception. What other tricks do you have up your sleeve?” Eddie, her second oldest brother had teased. She gave him a scornful look and quickly put him in his place.
“This is the twenty-first century, smart aleck, and I can choose to have a baby on my own,” Charlie said sharply.
Nodding as the saleswoman continued to chatter on, Charlie thought about how great her brothers were, though, even when they annoyed her. With none of them attached to partners and no children of their own, they quickly became excited about their impending uncle status. Which had both its blessings and its curses for Charlie. Each of them watched her obsessively. She had to remind them countless times that women had given birth for millennia, and she was perfectly capable of it herself. It didn’t help that all three were doctors. She was thankful her physician father had decided to let her be.
“Do you know the sex?”
Charlie barely registered the saleswoman’s question but supplied her with the standard answer she had developed over the months.
“I’m just going to be surprised like all the women before me,” Charlie replied with a soft smile.
“Hey, sis, don’t you think you’ve bought enough for the day, or do I still have to keep waiting?”
Charlie quirked her brow and sighed at the sound of her twin brother’s voice. It didn’t help that the saleswoman’s eyes widened and began to sparkle with admiration. With a quick look, she noticed other women had come into the store while she’d talked, all staring at her brother with adoration. Standing well over six feet tall in worn jeans and a fitted top, Micah, her twin, was a sight for sore eyes. Given his copper-colored skin, closely cropped hair, and magnetic smile, Charlie couldn’t help but feel sorry for the women in the store. It only got worse once they took in his hazel eyes that sparkled with mischief. Of course, his career as a surgeon with a promising future was just icing on the cake.
She rolled her eyes, waved her hand at her twin and replied, “Well, if you would let me drive like a normal person we wouldn’t have this problem.”
Micah made his way through the store, nodding at women as he passed. He grumbled about waiting for Charlie while she shopped, but she knew the flirt enjoyed the attention he got. Once by her side, he leaned in and gave her a quick kiss on the top of her head.
“Really, Charlie, you know you’re not going to win this argument. Since you won’t have a driver, you have us.”
As if on cue, their oldest brother Thomas walked in. Amused initially, Charlie was quickly becoming annoyed. It didn’t help that the women in the store had now completely abandoned their shopping to stare at the two men. Friends and family joked that Claire and Steven Ambrose had used a mold to make their sons. All three men were over six feet tall, with coppery skin, muscular physiques, and dreamy hazel eyes. Charlie had grown up accustomed to the ways in which women threw themselves at her brothers.
Her brothers had always lamented their male friends being smitten by her. Charlie’s darker, coppery bronze complexion, tall, toned frame, and vibrant green eyes, had caught the attention of quite a few of her brothers’ friends through the years. To her complete frustration, her brothers were the proverbial chastity belt when it came to their friends, and all she ever got were looks. Shifting her weight from one foot to the other, she grimaced as a sharp pain traveled up her back. Her brothers obviously hadn’t been that effective, considering her current situation.
“What is she complaining about now?” Thomas said, taking a sip from his iced coffee.
“I wasn’t complaining. I was actually commenting that if Micah didn’t like my shopping habits he should let me drive myself.” Charlie poked her twin with her finger for emphasis.
She would have continued harassing her brothers, but the pain that had settled in her lower back decided to travel to her lower abdomen. Clutching at her protruding stomach, Charlie bent over slightly. As the pain subsided, she realized both of her brothers were hovering near her with anxious looks.
“For doctors, you two really get anxious over the littlest thing. Don’t worry, just a little pain. I’m not going to pop.” She smiled and gently squeezed each man’s forearm.
“Two brothers, and both doctors—you must have done something wonderful in a past life.”
Charlie laughed at the saleswoman’s comment. The younger woman may have made the comment to Charlie, but her attention was focused solely on her brothers. It really was criminal the way they drew women to them, like moths to a flame.
“Actually three brothers that are all doctors, and I haven’t decided if it’s all that it’s cracked up to be yet,” she chuckled.
She waved her brothers back, slapping at their hands when they tried to help her walk. She wasn’t an invalid and hated they thought she needed to be treated like spun glass. Women had babies every day, and somehow managed it without overly attentive brothers hounding their steps.
“I better ring these up before they both plan a revolt.” She sighed, heading toward the register.
There was a minor verbal scuffle as she tried to check out. She appreciated the help her family had given her throughout her pregnancy, but she realized if she didn’t draw some lines they would completely control every aspect of her life. Her two brothers protested loudly when she wouldn’t let them pay for her items, much to the amusement of the woman behind the counter. Charlie, just as determined as her siblings, slapped her credit card on the counter and refused to discuss the subject any further. It was only when she told them to put the money away for the baby’s college fund that they relented.
Needless to say, her simple shopping trip had left her exhausted. Used to endless amounts of energy, her lack of it during her pregnancy was one of the hardest things to adjust to. Lord, she needed a nap.
“Was that the first time you had that pain?” her brother Thomas asked, taking her shopping bag.
Walking down Robertson Boulevard, a trendy shopping street in Los Angeles, Charlie let out a sigh. She was amazed it had taken her brother that long to ask her.
“Actually, no. But before you start, I talked to my doctor, and she said that was pretty normal in the later stages of pregnancy. I actually had a scan and she noted that everything looked normal. I’m sure you’ve heard of Braxton Hicks, Doc.”
He frowned over her head at Micah and pursed his lips together. She could tell he wanted to argue, but instead he ushered them toward his SUV at the curb. Charlie knew her brothers cared about her and only wanted the best, but she couldn’t help feeling annoyed that they thought she was incapable of taking care of herself and her baby. Even though she hadn’t gone into medicine like her brothers, she had a successful career as a history lecturer at a local community college in the city. She loved her students and the unique environment working at a community college provided. Her father often lamented she hadn’t gone further and gotten a Ph.D., ensuring she could have a tenured position at a university, but she was happy with what she’d accomplished.