*This one's not so fluffy*
Rosewood Short – Part 8
“Why does my mom keep sending you these matching damn outfits?”
“Don’t talk bad about your mom,” Ellie protested, as she snapped a clip into Jane’s honeyed hair and then sent her off after her sister with a little push. The twins were in matching pale blue dresses with white Peter Pan collars. Jordan seemed unable to keep from making fun of his own children. Or his mother. “I like these dresses,” she defended. “They’re adorable.”
He rolled his eyes. “God.”
Jane and Lizzy reached their destination – the sandbox – and their cousin Maddie. By this point, the third generation of Walker kids spent almost as much time at Rosewood as they did at their own homes. Ellie loved it – she wanted her girls to have strong relationships with their cousins; she didn’t want them to live through the cold detachment of her own childhood.
“They’re girls, Jordan,” she said. “They’re supposed to be adorable.”
“Don’t let Jo hear you say that.”
“Jo’s girls are adorable too.”
“Okay, the word ‘adorable’ has lost all meaning at this point.”
She stood and brushed the wrinkles out of her skirt, giving him a mock-stern look over her shoulder. The afternoon was cool and golden, smelling a little of smoke, the wind stirring through the edges of the forest. Jordan was in the navy sweater she’d set out for him over a white oxford, khakis. His hair was super short, the curl just visible at the ends. His blue-green eyes looked more turquoise than normal, shaded as a stretch of clouds started to tumble in from the west.
“What’s wrong with you today?” she asked.
He ignored the question. “Are you cold? Maybe you should have worn pants?”
Ellie made a face. She had tights on under her knee-length skirt, and her cardigan was thick. “I’m fine,” she said, pretending the breeze didn’t cut right through her tights. “But we can go inside if you want.”
“Nah.” He kicked at a clump of onions growing up through the lawn.
“Tam’s in there,” she prodded. “He’s setting up the buffet tables with Chris.”
His head lifted and he gazed toward the house, but said nothing.
“Jordie.” She sighed. “I’m sorry you’re missing the game. I’m sure the other guys want to watch it too. Once Jade and Ben are here, and the party’s started, I’m sure you can all – ”
“I don’t care about the game.”
Her hands landed on her hips. “Well then why are you being like this?”
“Like a pouting six-year-old.”
He made a face. His eyes cut over to hers, and in them, she found a reprimand. Stop playing dumb, they said.
She took a deep breath that got stuck in her throat. Suddenly, she was freezing, the breeze artic as it swirled her skirt around her knees. “I don’t want to think about that today,” she said quietly. “I don’t want to feel sorry for myself.”
His gaze didn’t waver. “This is her second kid,” he said. “No one gets a baby shower for baby number two. Why should she? She’s not even related to us, El. We don’t even need to be here.”
She took another breath, this one small and shaky. “She’s Jess’s sister-in-law and she doesn’t have much family – ”
“That’s not our problem.”
“ – and I promised we’d come.”
“You should have cancelled.” He glanced away, back toward the house. “You oughtta be in bed anyway.”
“I’m – ”
“Don’t say you’re fine. You’re not fine. And you shouldn’t have to be here.”
She should have known, but somehow hadn’t expected, for him to take this just as badly as she did. She was trying to put on a brave face; no one else knew, and she didn’t figure they needed to. She wasn’t sure she could handle the sympathy. Jordan’s grief was coming out as anger. It was misplaced anger, but it was making it impossible for her to preserve any kind of façade.
A lump constricted her throat; tears pricked the corners of her eyes. “It-it’s just one afternoon. And I can get through it if you’ll stop reminding me…”
He sighed, shoulders sagging. He was the thinnest she’d ever seen him, clothes hanging off of him.
“We always knew,” she tried to reason, “that this was a…a possibility.”
His eyes were wounded when they came back to her.
“Stop looking at me that way,” she pleaded. “Unless you want everyone to find out.” She started to cry, and hated the fact.
He closed the distance between them and pulled her into his chest. His voice was just the barest thread of sound. “I’m sorry, baby.”
Ellie closed her eyes and bit her tongue and wrestled for control of her emotions. “We have two girls,” she said against his sweater, “and that’s more than I’d ever hoped for.”
“I know.” His hand moved down her back.
“And I know we didn’t plan another, but…”
But the test had come up positive anyway. Somehow. Seemingly by miracle. And for four terrified weeks, they’d started to make plans.
It had always been a risk, her doctor had told her. Given her preexisting condition, and the trouble she’d had delivering the twins. It was to be expected, really. She knew that she shouldn’t have ever tried for another. And they hadn’t been trying, but it had happened, and she’d hoped…
And just two weeks after that horrible, devastating moment at the doctor’s office, the last place either of them needed to be was a baby shower.
“I’ll be okay,” she promised. “I just need a minute.”
She felt his face in her hair. “Okay.”