In case you missed it, start here with Part I.
The night was cold and crisp and she could see her breath. She inhaled deeply and exhaled a few times, watching her breath turn into vapour clouds that slowly disappeared. She was just starting to relax when she suddenly heard someone come running towards her from around the side of the church. She spun around to look and immediately regretted it.
‘Ahhh, not again! I have to remember to stop twisting!’ She bent over, one hand on her leg, the other cradling her aching belly. She moaned as the pain radiated from her belly deep into her low back and hip.
“Heh, if it’s not the pregnant woman again, is it?” She recognized Tyler’s voice right away but she refused to move. All she wanted to do was drop down onto the ground and cry. She was tired of being in pain and she was sick of being pregnant. Tyler came up beside her and crouched down to look up into her face.
“Is it okay if I help you?” A plaid trapper’s hat covered his head and he was wearing a faded green military-style jacket with a grey scarf.
“Sure,” she said sarcastically. “What do you suggest?”
“Just…trust me.” He stood up and and moved in beside her. He placed one foot in front of her with his arm across the front of her shoulders, then he firmly pressed his fingers into her low back. Immediately, her muscles relaxed. She grabbed his arm for balance as it dropped in front of her and stood up straight. He immediately moved to stand directly in front of her, bending close to look into her face with concern.
“So much better! That…that was, wow. Thank you. How’d you know how to do that?” She hadn’t let go of his arm and she found herself looking straight into his chocolate brown eyes.
He shrugged and grinned. “I have three older sisters. I was 15 when my oldest sister gave birth. I’ve heard it all about a thousand times, give or take.”
“Really,” she said, trying to hide the fact that she was impressed. “Do you know that you’re the only one who helps me get up and down and in and out of cars? Even my parents don’t help and my Mom claims that she remembers being pregnant.” She was babbling again. ‘Shut up,’ she told herself as she clenched her mouth shut.
“What about your boyfriend?”
“Oh, he’s gone.” She looked away from him. “It’s for the best. It’s complicated.”
“You said that. The first time I met you.”
“Oh. Right.” That had only been yesterday and here they were, meeting for the third time already. She suddenly shivered.
“You cold? Come, let’s go in.” He took the arm she was holding and tucked in under his arm and walked her to the church doors.
“You were in here, right? Do you have any nieces or nephews in the concert?”
Katy felt her eyes open a little but she stopped herself from saying the thought that had jumped into her head. Why had she automatically assumed that someone that looked like him wouldn’t go to church?
“Ah, no. It’s just the church I’ve gone to for the last ten years.”
“Really? My family comes here all the time. My mom, dad, sisters, and their families. I go to a different one closer to home. But it’s Christmas and my sister’s would kill me if I missed their darling’s concert.” He smiled down at her. “What do you think about your little one being up in front of the church in a few Christmases?”
“Ah well, I hadn’t really thought about it.” Until today, when my Mom suggested it, she thought. “How many nieces and nephew do you have?”
“Three nieces and four nephews at last count. But they’re not all in the program.” Just then, they heard the children start singing again. “Oh shoot, it started. How late am I?” He didn’t have a watch so she checked hers.
“Twenty minutes or so.”
Just then, the pastor walked through the back area they were in. He gave them a quick little wave and smiled. Katy and Tyler both smiled back.
“Let’s sneak in the back. Maybe if you’re by the door you’ll catch a breeze.” Tyler grabbed her hand and pulled her into the last pew in the back corner which was fortunately on the opposite side of the church sanctuary as her parents and sister were on. A young family must have been sitting there earlier because Katy noticed a couple toys and a baby blanket still on the bench. Maybe this would be her bench next Christmas. She wondered how the church people would look at her then? Maybe they would have gotten over the disgust of seeing a pregnant “teenager” by then.
The children’s choir was singing a song that Katy didn’t recognize. Tyler whispered in her ear, “My oldest niece is the one in the front row wearing the red dress. And another one is on the end of the row in the silver dress. And…hang on. There should be a boy somewhere too. One or two, I don’t always remember what ages these things start at.”
Katy glanced at him as he craned his neck to look around the people sitting in front of them. She was once again on the side of his pierced eyebrow and she had to admit, it looked good on him. It looked like he hadn’t shaved in about a week and the stubble look worked well for him as well. He had removed his jacket but left his scarf on. He was wearing a snug white long sleeved shirt with faded grey jeans and clean, grey work boots. If she hadn’t known better, she would have guessed he had just walked off a model shoot. Even his hair looked like he had spent time on it. It was smoothed back nicely into a small, tight ponytail and the sides looked freshly cut. The boy cleaned up well.
“There he is. He’s in the front row too. Didn’t recognize him with a tie and vest on. Look at him sing!”
Katy nodded but didn’t look. She wasn’t about to strain herself looking for the kids he was pointing out at the front of the church. She would wait until it was time to stand up again and maybe she’d catch a glimpse before everyone else was standing. If she managed to get back on her feet again. She tried to stifle a yawn.
“Heh, if you wanna lean against me and take a nap, I promise to wake you up at the end.” Katy smiled to herself and let her head rest gently on his shoulder. He smelled good, a combination of a gentle laundry detergent mingled with a pleasant musky-smelling deodorant.
Before she knew it, she had dozed off.
It felt like ten seconds later when she heard Tyler whisper in her ear. “Wake up, Katy, wake up.” She quickly opened her eyes and everyone around her was already standing.
“You said you’d wake me,” she hissed at him.
“I’m sorry. Trust me, by this time next week you’ll thank me.” He picked up his jacket and hat.
“What do you mean?”
“Never mind. Do you want to meet my sisters? They’re probably up at the front with their cameras. If you have any questions about anything pregnancy or baby, I’m sure they’d love to talk to you. If you can believe it, they know more than I do.” He grinned at her and gave his eyebrows a quick raise.
Katy chuckled. “Ah thanks, that sounds like a great idea, but I should go find my sister and parents. They’re probably wondering where I disappeared to.”
Tyler grabbed her underneath her elbow and they stood up together. The lights came on in the church just then and Katy turned to exit the pew. She saw the questioning stares of the people coming down the aisle. Only this time, their eyes were on Tyler, not her. She felt her body stiffen and without thinking, she stepped back against him and looked at him as if they were a couple.
“You know what? I’d love to meet your sisters.” Fighting the crowd, she grabbed Tyler’s hand and pulled him towards the front of the church, her jaw set firmly. She knew exactly how he must be feeling and it made her angry. Once the crowd cleared near the front of the church, she stopped and turned back to him.
“I’m sorry. I just get so mad when people make sweeping judgements based on what they see.”
He just grinned down at her. “You’re funny.”
“You know what I mean. And I’m sorry I said what I did. I wasn’t thinking. To tell you the truth, I’m not really myself these days.” His charming smile and his closeness were making her warmer with each passing minute.
“You’re right, I do know what you mean but I’ve learned to ignore it. It must have been hell for you coming to church here these past few months.”
Katy blinked and looked down. The understanding in his voice was palpable.
“It’s kinda disappointing some folks are this way, don’t you think?”
“You should check out my church downtown. Way less pressure to fit in. Heh, there’s Audrey!” He grabbed her hand and gently pulled her toward a tall woman with gorgeous, long blonde hair and a toddler on her hip.
“Tyler, you made it! How much did you miss?” Audrey reached for him with her free arm and gave him a quick hug.
“Oh, I see you brought a friend?” Katy felt Audrey glance up and down her pregnant body but the warm smile didn’t leave her face. “Hi, I’m Audrey. Sorry, I’ve only got a left hand to shake!”
“It’s okay, Katy prefers shaking left hands anyway,” Tyler added before reaching for the toddler she held and moved towards another shorter blonde woman holding a baby. It was probably safe to say that she was another one of his sisters.
“Hi Katy, I think I’ve seen you around here a few times, right?” They chatted for a bit before Katy spotted her parents nearby talking to the Director of the play. She wondered what they would have to say about Tyler’s appearance. She glanced over at Tyler and he was holding the baby in one arm and the toddler in the other, looking completely at ease. A couple other kids, most likely his nieces and nephews, stood around him, begging for his attention and he did his best to listen to everything they were saying. Katy’s heart completely melted and it must have shown on her face because Audrey turned to see what she was looking at.
“He’s a pretty great guy, even if he is my baby brother. And he’s just as amazing with kids as you’d think. How’d you two meet?”
Katy filled her in on the details which didn’t take long.
“Yeah, he would never leave a pregnant woman stranded on the side of the road. That’s the good thing about having three older sisters. We trained him well, although I doubt he’d ever tell you that.”
Katy laughed. “I can see that.”
“We tortured the poor boy so much, dressing him in girl’s clothes and pretending he was our baby. It’s no wonder he still has a great sense of fashion.”
Katy nodded in agreement before sensing someone behind her. She carefully turned to find Julia waiting to speak to her.
“Heh Jules, ready to go?”
“Just waiting for Mom and Dad. They have a lot of people to catch up with but most everyone is leaving.” Katy looked around and the church sanctuary was nearly empty except for Tyler’s family, two other couples, and the woman her parents were still talking to.
“Tell Dad I went to start the car.” Julia gave a small wave to Audrey and quickly turned and left.
Katy turned back to Audrey. “Sorry. My sister. She’s a bit of a recluse.”
“Oh, I know her. She built a website for my husband. She’s good!”
“Yeah, she is. Look, it was nice meeting you but I gotta get out of here. I’m boiling!” Katy pulled at her collar to exaggerate how she was feeling and glanced over at Tyler. He had passed the toddler on to someone else and was kissing the baby he held and making him – or her – giggle and coo.
“Wait. Didn’t you come with Tyler? Don’t you want to say good-bye?” At the sound of his name, Tyler walked over to them, still holding the baby.
“Look Katy, this is what you’ll have in a few months. How cute is he? This is Bailey.” He moved in close to her so they were elbow to elbow. Katy smiled nervously. As uncomfortable as she currently was, she wasn’t ready yet to think of a baby in her arms. Tyler, on the other hand, looked like he had been carrying around babies for years.
Bailey was definitely adorable, dressed in a little vest and dress pants, even little dress shoes. Katy gently stroked the top of his head and looked at his baby fist that was wrapped tightly around Tyler’s thumb.
“He’s very cute. How old is he?”
“He’s three months? Right?” He looked up at his sister and she smiled and nodded.
“Look, it was nice meeting you, Katy. All the best with your delivery.”
“Bye!” Katy called quietly after the tall blonde who went running after the toddler who was now on the loose, pulling at the Christmas tree at the front of the church.
“I’ll give him back to his mom and drive you home. Is that okay?” Tyler looked at her as he gently jiggled the baby who was starting to fuss.
“Ah, well, I’m here with my parents and sister, so I should probably go home with them.” Katy fumbled for her words. She couldn’t believe how adorable Tyler looked, tattoos and all, holding his little nephew. Even though she was trying her best to keep her distance, she was quickly beginning to see Tyler in a whole new light.
“Well, if you came in your car, I won’t allow it. Trust me, a truck is way easier to get in and out of. Hang on, I’ll be right back.”
Before she could argue, he stepped away and deposited the infant into another set of arms. He walked back to her and picked up his jacket hanging on the pew beside her. “I’ll go pull the truck around to the front. It’s not the tow truck, just so you know. Trust me, you’ll know which one’s mine.”
He flashed her a smile, then turned around and called loudly, “Bye Thompson fam! See you on Christmas Day!”
A chorus of good-byes followed and Katy could see her parents glancing over in their direction. She watched her Mom’s expression carefully. She didn’t look bothered at all by the greeting or the person who gave it.
Tyler touched her elbow. “K, see you in a couple minutes.” Katy watched him saunter down the aisle, shrugging on his jacket as he went. Once he was out of sight, she made her way toward her parents. Her Mom was busy talking and her Dad was standing to the side listening to the conversation. She pulled her Dad back a step and let him know she had a ride home and that Julia was warming up the car.
“Great, honey. Invite him in if you want. See you soon!” He squeezed her shoulder and turned his attention back to the woman in front of them. Katy chuckled and walked away. Her parents were a funny couple. Her Mom did all the talking and her Dad was the quiet one who always knew just what to say. And he didn’t miss a thing.
Part 9 is here!