[4.5 centimeters], says the first of three text messages that interrupted Andrew’s morning coffee.
His first thought is… something outside the realm of words. His second is that Katelyn clearly wasn’t seeing an American doctor – “centimeters”. Four and a half of them. He absently Googles just how big that is. Just shy of one point eight inches.
That’s nothing. There are limes in their fridge – from Kevin’s last visit – that are bigger than that. He opens the fridge just to make sure. Yup. The three limes that fit in his palm are bigger.
Four and a half. One point eight. Might as well be nothing.
Except… it isn’t nothing. These scant inches are, incredibly, alarmingly, something. Something so small to be so important.
[I wanted to show you first], says the rest of Aaron’s message, sent after the photo. [You were the only person I wanted to tell. Before I remembered Nicky.]
Andrew supposes he should be touched. Other brothers certainly would be, and it isn’t as though he’s repulsed by the news. He does feel a little something curling ‘round his heart – albeit with a bigger something churning in his stomach – but he doesn’t know what to do with it. He shuts the fridge and returns to his phone.
[12 weeks old so… come August, you’ll have someone to call you ‘uncle’]
Andrew’s knuckles rap absently against their wooden table. A part of him rings hollow with a yet-unsaid “congratulations”, a remnant of the manners that an old foster family had tried to instill. But a smaller part, some bare sliver of a heart that survived all the breaking and all the wreckage, is running full steam ahead with awe, already busy imagining a family yet unrealized… and seeing himself play an irrevocable, irreplaceable part in it.
Would this child – niece or nephew – look like him and Aaron? Or would it take after Katelyn and force him to see the beauty of her features? Would it ever confuse Andrew for its father? If it did, would it cry or laugh?
You, me, and baby makes three…
What a stupid thing to pop into his head.
He’s still staring at the ultrasound that Aaron had sent him. His coffee has gone cold while he stares, brought to a standstill over a little white blob that barely looks like anything remarkable.
It’s sure to be ugly. It’s practically ugly now, featureless as it seems on his phone. He clicks and taps and before he knows it, it’s become his phone’s new background. He almost changes it right away because an old part of his mauled and broken heart is panicking, ratcheting up his anxiety until Andrew is one second away from pleading with Aaron to take it back; take back this age-old faith that Andrew will someday be the brother Aaron’s always wanted.
Don’t. I’ll disappoint you, brother. I always do.
Hope might as well be a weed for all Andrew has a use for it. Better to stomp it out now, before Katelyn miscarries, or Andrew gives the happy couple a reason to never speak to him again, or the kid becomes a vegan and decides it hates its uncle.
Andrew hits ‘Call’ before he can spiral any further.
“Andrew?” Aaron answers.
He bites back everything he wants to plead and instead asks, “What did Nicky say about it?”
It’s a useless question and Andrew feels utterly pathetic and transparent about indirectly looking to Nicky for an example to follow. Aaron takes a few moments before replying, and Andrew’s anxiety about transparency skyrockets.
“…Hell if I know,” Aaron says, setting aside any questions he might have. “There was a lot of blubbering and he kept switching to German. Erik was worried someone died. Katelyn asked if he’d be godfather and he passed out or something.”
See? Nicky’s help was useless. Andrew certainly wasn’t going to follow suit and weep over an embryo that had barely begun to grow organs.
Then Aaron asks a terrible question, “…What are you saying about it?”
He can hear the hope in his brother’s voice, a twin sliver of a hopeful heart asking once more for a family it never thought it could have – a family that included him, his one and only brother. It makes Andrew (and his anxiety) pause, makes him second-guess whether it wouldn’t be alright to let a little bit of hope breathe and sprout in peace.
He hums and pours himself a fresh cup of coffee to stall, then finally settles on, “If you name it anything starting with ‘A’, I’m disowning both you and it.”
Aaron scoffs across the line. “That’s what I said, but Katelyn’s adamant that ‘Amanda’ stay on the list, after a long-time best friend. You would have met her at the wedding.”
There. This is normally when the call would end. Aaron had asked him for a reaction to his news and Andrew had provided one. They’ve had an equal exchange, a completed transaction. And yet…
“There’s a list, huh?” Andrew asks, not quite ready to face his hopes and doubts alone. He’d like to stay on the line until Neil gets back from his run at least. (And maybe some part of him also wants to… bask a little… in Aaron’s news.)
“Yeah.” Aaron says quickly, as if he's just as eager to share something good and lighthearted between them. “They’re not just for groceries, you know.”
It’s a dig at the giant notepad of a grocery list Andrew and Neil keep on their fridge as a source of a silent battle between them. Andrew keeps trying to sneak in sugary snacks or crosses off Neil’s stupid health foods in the pretense that they’ve already been bought; Neil likes to forge his items in near-illegible scripts, so that Andrew doesn’t always know what he’s crossing out or leaving intact (one time 'snickerdoodles'; another time, 'most expensive tuna treats').
“What if it’s a boy?” Andrew asks, stirring in his cream and sugar, ready to exercise his power as uncle to veto any truly terrible names off the list.
"That depends, since we can't agree. Which sounds stupider: David Nicholas or Nicholas David?"
It's a good start.