“Are you kidding me?”
Mom and Wells are smiling at me nervously. I let the wrapping paper fall to my feet and hold up the t-shirt that was inside. It’s in my size, in teal blue, with a picture of a unicorn saying, “I’m going to be a big sister!”
It’s two weeks before Christmas; Abby dropped me off at my house last night after we drove back from Athens, but we got home after dinner. Tonight, Wells made dinner, and then afterwards Mom told me they had an early Christmas present for me and brought out a package. I thought it was probably something to tell me they were engaged. I mean, it’s been obvious for a while that they’re serious. I guess I’m sort of reconciled to Mom and Wells getting engaged.
Mom being pregnant, on the other hand… I stand up, scattering the wrapping paper. “What was it you told me?” I said, my voice cracking. “Dental dam, condom, that’s the golden rule?”
Mom shrugs and says, “Condoms break. And I’ve always wanted another child, when the time was right.”
I want to ask how the time could possibly be right now , but of course I know why: it’s right because of Wells. Wells, with his golf shirts and his bald head and his weird little ears. I wonder if the baby’s going to have tiny ears, too. Tiny for a baby, I mean. “How long have you known?”
“We didn’t know at Thanksgiving,” Mom says.
I can’t look at Wells. I know he’s looking at me, and I can’t look back. I drop the t-shirt and go down the hall to my room. Seriously, what do they expect me to say?
Abby’s at a family party tonight. Simon won’t be back until next week. Neither will Nick, although honestly things have felt kind of awkward with Nick anyway ever since I started dating his ex-girlfriend. Garrett’s in town, and things are actually a lot less awkward with him than you might expect, but he’s just never been the sort of friend I’d go to talk to about something like my mother getting pregnant.
I look to see who’s online and spot Bram.
“Hey, Leah!” he says when I call him on Skype. “Aren’t you studying for finals?”
“Oh, crap.” Of course he’s studying for finals. That’s probably why Simon isn’t online. “I’m sorry. No. I’m done. I’m home. I’ll let you get back to whatever it is you’re currently trying to…”
“It’s okay! Seriously, it’s okay. What’s going on?”
Only, now I don’t want to tell him because I can’t stop thinking about how I’m probably going to make him flunk his exam, and as I’m flailing around trying to figure out what to say, whether to blurt it out or try to get off the line, he says, “hey, Simon’s on, can I add him?”
So now I’m both a distraction from exams and a third wheel. On the plus side, I now have both Simon and Bram on my screen.
“You didn’t have a fight with Abby, did you?” Simon asks, anxiously.
“Is it that obvious that something’s wrong?” I ask.
There’s a pause, and you wouldn’t think it would be super obvious when the other two people in a three-way Skype conversation exchange a look , but it is.
“Everything’s fine with Abby,” I say. “We drove home yesterday and listened to the playlist I made for our drive to Athens last year and talked about this Harry/Draco Die Hard crossover fic that was the most hilariously ridiculous thing I’d ever read. But tonight’s her brother’s birthday and she’s busy.”
“Did your mom get engaged to Bills? Wait, no, Wills. Wills?”
“Oh my god , Simon.” I stifle a laugh. “ Wells. ”
“I was close!”
“No,” I say. “Not engaged. She’s pregnant.”
“Oh shit ,” Simon says, and Bram says, “oh, awesome. ”
Bram, of course, has a baby half-brother, his father and his stepmother’s baby. Who’s not really a baby anymore. He must be … okay, Bram mentioned a birthday in June. One and a half.
Bram pulls up a picture on his phone from June, his brother eating birthday cake with his bare hands. “I mean, you like babies, right? I guess if you hate babies you wouldn’t be a fan.”
“I don’t hate babies. ” I don’t know whether to laugh, or yell at him. I can like babies as a general thing and still not want a baby sister showing up when I’m eighteen.
“I guess your mom’s really young,” Simon says.
“My mom was about thirty-six when she had Nora,” Simon says. “I guess I was a lot younger than you are now, though.”
“Yeah,” I say. “I guess. Thanks, guys. Good luck on your exams.”
“I’ll be home a week from tomorrow,” Simon says. “I’m flying in on Thursday. We can get together in person on Thursday, if you want?”
“Don’t be silly, Simon,” I say. “See your boyfriend. We can get together that weekend.”
I leave the call and then stare at my laptop. I want to get out of the house, but the not if I have to ask Mom to drive me somewhere, and I don’t have a car. In Athens, I can get around on foot, but we live in a suburban wasteland. Finally, I text Abby, call me tomorrow? Not an emergency or anything, and pull out my pencils and paper and list of commissions. I might as well get some work done.
The house has gone silent and I’m finishing off a commissioned Stucky piece when my phone buzzes under my elbow. (The whole commissions thing still really weirds me out. And it’s a good thing no one’s asked for their money back yet because it’s amazing how much college costs, and I don’t mean tuition, which I have a scholarship for. The cost of textbooks is ridiculous, and going off to college doesn’t mean you magically no longer need things like tampons and shampoo. Most of what I’ve made has gone straight into basic necessities even though I’m supposedly saving for a trip to New York in the spring.) I put down my pencil and pick up the phone. It’s Abby, of course. “Hello?”
“Leah,” she says. “My phone battery died and I only just saw your text.”
“It’s okay,” I say. “Weren’t you out with your brother?”
“Yeah, but we got home ages ago, I just didn’t know you’d called. Is everything okay?”
“My mom’s pregnant,” I say. It was so hard to tell Simon and Bram, but it’s easy with Abby.
“Oh Leah, ” she says. “You know what, I’m going to pick you up, right now.”
I check the time: it’s almost 1 a.m. “You don’t have to do that,” I say.
“Nope,” she says. “If there was ever a time to go to Waffle House at 1 a.m., it’s when you just found out that your mother has gotten herself knocked up! I’ll be there in ten.”
I close the front door quietly and lock it behind me when I think Abby’s about to arrive. It was raining earlier and it’s still dripping; the air is damp. I left my PJ bottoms on, put a sweater on over the t-shirt I sleep in, and put a jacket on over that. Fortunately I hadn’t put on the PJ bottoms covered in poop emojis that my mother had found absolutely hilarious when she saw them for $1.99; the ones I’m wearing are navy blue and could almost pass as pants if you don’t look too closely.
Abby pulls up and I get in the car.
“Come here,” she says, and gives me a kiss from the driver’s seat. “I missed you!”
“You saw me just over 24 hours ago.”
“So it’s been over a day that I haven’t gotten to see you. I’ve been in withdrawal.” She grins at me, and I find myself grinning back. Abby’s smiles are contagious. She’s such a Disney Princess in some ways. I bet birds would land on her if she ever held still at the park for long enough.
Waffle House is brightly lit and humming with activity. Who knew so many people wanted waffles at 1 a.m.? I think regretfully about my checking account balance and order a waffle anyway.
“So how did they tell you?” Abby asks.
“They wrapped up a t-shirt that said ‘I’m going to be a big sister’ and gave it to me,” I say.
Abby puts down her fork. “You are kidding ,” she says.
“No. It has unicorns on it.”
Abby lets out a shriek of laughter and then covers her mouth with both hands. “I’m sorry! I shouldn’t be laughing! I know this isn’t funny!”
“No, you’re right, though. It is funny.”
“Also a rainbow. It’s got, like, a rainbow mane and tail.”
“They couldn’t have told you when you were down for Thanksgiving?”
“I guess they didn’t know,” I say. “They claim they didn’t know.”
“Oh, Leah,” Abby says, and wipes her eyes. “So, you’re going to be a big sister. At least they won’t be able to make you change any diapers since you’ll be at college, right? I guess that’s something.”
“Yeah,” I say, and I stop laughing and my face goes hot and my eyes prickle. Why am I crying, this makes no sense. I rub my eyes irritably. “I should have just stayed home. I think I’m tired.”
“Do you feel like they’re replacing you?”
“Kind of,” I say. “I guess. I mean, I’m gone, right? I’m out of the house. Mom couldn’t stop talking last year about how fast it all went. So now she’s going to start over with a new version of me. See if she can get it right this time.”
Abby hesitates, then asks, “What do you think she’s going to do differently?”
“Well, this time she’s not in high school, ” I say. “And this time she accidentally had a baby with Wells , instead of my dad.” I stuff a piece of waffle in my mouth and chew for a bit.
Abby’s eyes are searching my face, and she reaches under the table and takes my hand. She doesn’t say anything, just squeezes my hand and then laces her fingers with mine.
My dad came to my graduation, last June. Showed up just like a regular member of the family that’s been around and part of my life and talking to me. Congratulated me on graduating, on the scholarship to UGA, on my girlfriend. Called me Red, like he used to. And that was the last I heard from him. I guess he figured he was done. Totally done. I mean, I was all grown up, right? Job completed. Finished. Over.
This baby’s going to have my mom. She’s going to be our mom. And when I really think about it, I don’t mind the idea of sharing. I do have that sneaking feeling like I’m being replaced , but Mom texted me every day and we Skyped every weekend and she sent me a gift certificate to Insomnia Cookies during midterms and finals. She’s made it clear that she doesn’t feel like she’s done.
But this baby’s not going to have my dad. My stupid, useless, can’t-be-bothered-to-call-ever tool of a dad. The baby’s going to have Wells. Who took a kid who wasn’t even his daughter into Target right before prom night for emergency purse-and-bra shopping. Wells, who always stayed out of the way when I was Skyping with Mom, but who texted, anyway, to wish me luck on exams.
“I think I’m jealous,” I say, and break down at the Waffle House table.
Abby winds up paying for both of us (“you can pick up the tab next time, I promise”) and drives us both out to one of the parks where I can have my personal nervous breakdown a little less publicly. I sit on a park bench, which is wet, which means that I’m going to have to change into a whole new set of PJs when I get home. Abby sits down next to me and scoots in close and wraps her arms around me.
“I wanted to kick your dad’s ass when I met him at graduation,” she says.
“Yeah. What does he think he’s doing, showing up like that and acting like he’s family? When he hadn’t called you since, like, eighth grade?”
“Whatever. And there he is, acting all proud. He doesn’t get to be proud of you.”
“I kind of wish you had kicked him,” I say.
“It seemed super rude to make a scene,” she says. “Unless you were making one. Anyway, especially then, I didn’t know if I knew the whole story.”
“Yeah. Like the people who acted all judgey about your dad?”
“Exactly. I mean, he moved down once he found a job. It didn’t happen overnight.”
“There wasn’t anything complicated about my dad. He just left and quit calling.”
“Yeah, now I know that.”
“What would you have said, if you’d felt okay making a scene?”
Abby disentangles herself from me and stands up and turns sideways, like my father’s there, and pantomimes a handshake. “Mr. Burke! Oh, gosh, how interesting to meet you, which I’m only doing now even though I’m your daughter’s girlfriend because you are such a loser you just vanished from her life! Yeah, super great to meet you! I’m so glad I get to tell you that your daughter is awesome and you get zero credit, and also to tell you how much you missed out on. You missed out on her art, which is fucking amazing. You missed out on her drumming, which is also fucking amazing. You missed out on her sense of humor and how absolutely badass she is because you fucking left. She deserved a million times better than you! SO NICE TO MEET YOU, you’re trash, have a nice life!”
I’m laughing and crying and she sits back down and says “I think that would’ve gone over great during the cake and punch bit after graduation,” and she kisses me.
Given that we’ve been living together for three and a half months, you wouldn’t think making out on a park bench in a light rain in December would be the most appealing thing ever, but she’s not exactly wrong about the whole withdrawal thing. We’re there until the sky starts to lighten and I realize that if we don’t get home, our parents are going to wake up and realize we’re gone.
I ease my front door open, then closed again, and snap the lock behind me. If I run into my mom now she might notice my damp hair and clothes and demand an explanation. I mean, I’ve been off at college for three-and-a-half months but somehow I think sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night won’t go over well .
I don’t run into my mother. It’s still an hour before she needs to get up.
Instead, I run into Wells.
“What are you doing here?” I hiss at him.
He jumps so much he almost drops his coat, which he’s carrying over one arm. He’s fully dressed for the day and has his briefcase. He pulls himself together, snaps on the floor lamp, and sets his stuff down. “Leah,” he says, his voice quiet. “Your mother thought it would be better if I made my exit before you woke up. I’m really surprised to see you this early.” He squints at me. I can see him take in my damp hair and deciding not to bring it up. “Since my cover is pretty well blown, would you like to come out for breakfast?”
We wind up at the same Waffle House. I think we have the same waitress. It’s a good thing Abby and I always tip well: I see her look at me, at my fleece pajama bottoms and UGA sweatshirt, and I see her lips quirk the tiniest bit, but she does not say a single word .
“I want to apologize,” Wells says. “We should have just called you when we found out.”
“That would have been right before finals, though,” I say. “ Distracting. ”
“Yeah, that was part of why we waited, but I’ll be honest…it was also cowardice. Telling you with a wrapped-up shirt seemed easier. I thought maybe you’d find it funny. The shirt, specifically. I mean, unicorns. ” He spreads his hands, uneasily. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay.” I pour syrup on my fresh waffle. “I get it. And Mom’s allowed to be a person. Have her own life. Sex, even. Although seriously, the number of times she told me condoms every time… ”
“We did —” Wells’ face flares bright red. “Yes.” He hides behind his cup of coffee.
“Anyway. Are you going to get married before the baby comes?”
“There’s actually a complication there I wanted to discuss with you, although I’d been thinking maybe sometime after Christmas but before New Year’s would be a better time. I thought I’d try to take you, just you, out for brunch, so we could talk it over.”
“We’re out.” I gesture with my fork. “It’s a little early for brunch, mind you.”
“Yes.” He gestures to the waitress, who refills our coffees. He takes a minute to add sugar and half-and-half and stir. “I would like to marry your mother. The complication is with your financial aid. You qualify for the Zell Miller Scholarship on merit and residency, but you also have some grants based on financial need, like a Pell Grant. Once your mother and I are married, my income also goes into those calculations. So you’d lose part of your financial aid -- money your mother wouldn’t be able to cover.” I start to speak and he holds up his hand. “Just hang on a second. Please? Hang on. I want you to know, I am totally willing to pay that money. I’m happy to pay that money. I want to marry your mom, I’m going to be a father to your sister or brother, and I’m going to be your stepfather. If not this year, then after you graduate from college. We’ll be family. But you’d have to be willing to accept that money from me. If you’re not, we’ll just hold off. It’s not that big a deal. There are some financial benefits to getting married, like you and your mom would qualify for insurance through my employer, which has a better plan, but due to the financial aid thing we actually come out ahead if we don’t do it.” He picks up his coffee and drinks, like he’s signaling that it’s my turn now, if I want to talk.
“If you come out ahead unmarried, then why get married?”
“Because I want to get married to your mother. I love her. Also, my parents are a little old-fashioned about the timing of babies. It would be nice to do it soon.”
He has parents? I don’t know why that surprises me so much.
“Anyway, you don’t have to decide right this instant. I wasn’t even going to bring this up until after Christmas. We can talk about something else now, if you want.”
“Do you want a girl or a boy?” I ask.
“I’m supposed to say that I don’t care so long as it’s healthy, right?”
“Yeah, but which do you want?”
“One of each. Simultaneously. Boy-girl twins.”
I choke on my waffle and look up to see him laughing at me. “Just kidding,” he adds, unnecessarily.
He takes me home and I fall into bed until mid-afternoon.
I wake up because my phone is buzzing under my elbow. It’s Abby, calling me because I’m not answering texts. “Garrett and Morgan are back in town and want to get together,” she says. “Well, I guess Garrett didn’t go very far, but he’s done with exams, same as we are. Are you up for it?”
“Yeah,” I say. “What time is it?”
“It’s two in the afternoon. Were you asleep? ”
“I ran into Wells doing the 5 a.m. walk of shame because he and my mom apparently didn’t want me to know he’d spent the night. And then he decided to take me out to breakfast. Can we go somewhere that’s not the Waffle House?”
“We could tell Garrett we want to meet at the American Girl Bistro again,” Abby says, giggling.
“It’s okay. I’m getting eggs this time, though.”
Morgan is wearing an oversized Georgia Tech sweatshirt that clearly belongs to Garrett, and Garrett is wearing a Georgia Southern t-shirt that Morgan must have bought for him at her college bookstore because it’s his size, not hers. Morgan greets us with sincere, slightly nervous hugs (she’s been jumpy around me since I called her out for being racist last year, even though we’ve officially made up) and Garrett gives us cheerful handshakes. Things were a little awkward last spring after I ditched him for my new girlfriend at prom but he says “Hey, Burke!” without any rancor and sits back down with his arm around Morgan and I heave a discreet sigh of relief at how not-awkward it genuinely is.
“So how’s college?” Abby asks, and Morgan babbles enthusiastically about her ASL class and how she might like to be an ASL interpreter. Garrett is less upbeat. He always coasted through his math classes in high school, even Calculus, but he got a C on his Linear Algebra midterm and is sincerely worried about his final grade in the class. That explains why he’s backed off on the jokes about UGA, maybe.
I tell everyone about my mother’s pregnancy. It’s been less than 24 hours and it’s gone from major trauma to my friends will find this hilarious , which I guess is progress.
“Did you tell Bram?” Morgan asks. “You know, his father had a baby with his new wife.”
“Yeah, I did, actually,” I say. “He was enthusiastic. Simon, too.”
“Wait, are they back?” Garrett asks. “Why didn’t they come along?”
“Skype,” I say. “They’re not back for another week.”
“Same with Anna,” Morgan says. “And Nick, and Taylor.”
“Well, ladies,” Garrett says. “Should you need a masculine presence for anything – protection, opening jars, explanations of difficult concepts – I’m here for you in your hour of need!”
Morgan hits him with her napkin and he laughs.
“Abby did pretty well in her math class last semester,” I say. “Maybe you should hit her up for math tutoring?”
“You should ask Leah about her band,” Abby says.
Garrett shoots her a grateful smile. “Yeah, Burke. Tell us about your band.”
“It’s not my band! You make it sound like I’m the lead guitarist or something instead of just the drummer.”
“The awesome drummer.”
“Adequate. I’m an adequate drummer.” Among the things I spent money on this year instead of saving it for the trip: a very basic used drum kit. An adequate drum kit for an adequate drummer.
“Hey,” Garrett says. “Did you hear about the band that locked their keys in the van? It took them forty-five minutes to get the drummer out!”
We’re at the Waffle House for hours and I’m still home before Mom is, which isn’t surprising given her usual work schedule. I wonder if her lawyer will ease up on her any while she’s pregnant. Probably not.
I send her a text to ask if she wants me to put anything on the stove, but she doesn’t answer, which hopefully means she’s driving home. I look in the cabinet and start water for pasta. If she doesn’t want pasta, she can just dump it down the sink.
When she walks in, she looks absolutely exhausted. “Sorry,” she says, falling into a chair. “This whole growing-another-human thing is a lot more tiring than I remember.”
“It’s almost like you’re old,” I say. “I mean, I bet you find all-nighters more tiring, too.”
“Yeah.” She doesn’t bring up my breakfast with Wells, which makes me think Wells didn’t tell her. “Did you start dinner?”
“As long as you want spaghetti with the sauce out of a jar, I’ve started dinner.”
“Anything I don’t have to make sounds great .”
“Have you been sick? Doesn’t pregnancy make women sick?”
“A little, but mostly that hasn’t been so bad,” she says. “I just want to sleep all the time.”
“I guess you’ve had Wells doing the cooking.”
“He can’t tonight, though. He has to work late. Also, I wanted some time with just you.” She lets out this frustrated bark of laughter. “Of course, now I’m going to sleep through my time with you.”
I drop the spaghetti into the water and put the sauce in a pot to heat up.
“Leah, I’m sorry we didn’t just tell you. I really thought you’d find the shirt funny. I mean, it has unicorns on it.”
The shirt is still on the table, exactly where I left it. I shake it out. “It is a pretty funny shirt,” I say.
“We should have told you, then given you the shirt. Instead of telling you with the shirt.”
“I can’t guarantee I would have been any happier about it.”
“You know we’re not replacing you, right, Lee? Kids aren’t like cars. You don’t just swap a new one in when the old one’s gone.”
“I know,” I say, a lump rising in my throat despite myself. “But where’s it going to sleep ? It’ll need my room eventually.”
“Oh, Lee.” Mom sighs heavily. “We’re looking for a new house. A big one, that we can live in together. Well, we’re not looking now , because the real estate market in December is terrible and I’m too exhausted to house-shop anyway, but that’s the plan.”
“ Moving? ” I’d adjusted to the idea of them getting married, though the whole “and Wells will have to pay part of your tuition!” thing is throwing me for a loop. I’m reconciled to the possibility of a sibling, maybe, kind of. But now moving? “Are you at least staying in Shady Creek?”
“Probably. The schools are good here.”
I’m draining the pasta when Mom suddenly sits bolt upright and adds, “You’ll have a room in the new house! A room that’s yours! Don’t worry!”
“I wasn’t worried,” I say. But I’m trying to imagine coming back to one of the huge houses like all my friends live in, with a basement rec room and acres of immaculate beige carpeting and a kitchen with an island.
“We’ll move all your art. Wherever we end up, you’ll have a room just like the room you have now.”
“You know that’s not true,” I say. “There’s no way you’ll find a house with a bedroom as small as the one I’ve got now.”
She laughs. “Okay. You have me there.”
We sit down to eat the spaghetti and I ask, “Are you going to play a song for this baby?”
“We haven’t figured one out yet.”
“Doesn’t Wells like Stevie Wonder?”
“Oh, Lee. ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)’ is your song,” Mom says, and gives me a tender smile across the dining room table.
Of all the things to worry about. I’m getting a sibling, a stepfather, and an entirely new house, but God forbid I share a song with my sibling.
Abby and I drive to the local mall to do our Christmas shopping, and spend a morning mostly finding the worst possible gifts for everyone we need to buy presents for, like a maternity shirt that says “This Is What Happens When You Party Naked!” for my mom, golf t-shirts with dirty jokes you probably have to be a golf player to find funny (“I Washed My Balls for THIS?”) for Wells, and a t-shirt saying “World Champion Deadbeat Dad!” (for my dad, obviously).
“Check this out,” Abby says, holding up a cut-crystal gingerbread ornament with a facial expression that somehow looks like it’s going to vomit. “Ugly and over a hundred dollars!”
I back away gingerly. I’m always worried in stores like that I’m going to knock over an entire rack of fragile crystal knickknacks and wind up billed $1,000,000 for clumsiness.
We stop in at a store Abby likes that has rack after rack of cute clothing that’s not in my size. I see Abby lift the largest size on the rack, check the tag, and drop it. “This store is worthless,” she says, and we stroll back out.
I end up buying mom a box of nice tea in a pretty canister. Wells is harder, because I honestly don’t know him all that well. Mom would probably have given me ideas if I’d asked, but I don’t want her to get all excited about the fact that I’m going to buy him a Christmas present. I finally get him a travel mug covered in unicorns, since apparently he thinks unicorns are hilarious.
There’s one more gift I need, but I don’t think I’m going to find it at the mall.
I already have a gift for Abby, and when we drive to a Starbucks when we’re done at the mall, I bring it out. “Since I don’t think we’re going to be able to escape our families on Christmas Day – this year, anyway – I thought I’d just give you yours now.”
“Okay,” she says. “Should I open it now?”
“Yeah,” I say, because I want to see her open it.
We didn’t go to prom as a couple, so we don’t have one of those official pictures they take under the balloon arch or whatever. Which is fine. Those pictures are almost always terrible. After we got back to the pavilion, though, someone – I’m not even sure who, it just turned up in the big shared Prom Night Google folder everyone uploaded candids to after prom -- someone took a picture of me and Abby dancing together that’s just awesome. We’re flushed and my hair is coming out of the curls my mom put it in but we’re grinning at each other with our fingers laced together and clearly just about to kiss.
I did a drawing based on the picture. And I put it in a frame.
Abby opens the package and just stares at it for a second, and my stomach drops through the floor. She hates it. “I’m sorry,” I say, and start wondering, if I tell her I have a real present for her, and then I tell her that I have to go to the bathroom, could I buy her a Starbucks card or something without her noticing…?
Before I can say anything, though, she pulls a wrapped package out of her own bag. “Here,” she says. “Here’s your present.”
It’s the same photo . Only she’s had it printed as an 8x10 and it’s in a really nice frame.
I lean across the table and kiss her.
“Merry Christmas,” Abby says. “We are such dorks. ”
When I was little, Christmas was me, Mom, and Dad, of course.
Then Dad left, and for a couple of years I alternated. There were … two? I think two years that I had Christmas morning with my father.
But it’s been just me and Mom for a while.
“You can invite Wells,” I say. “We can all have Christmas here. So long as it’s here and you don’t expect me to sleep over Christmas Eve at his place.”
“Are you sure, Lee?” Mom says. “He doesn’t mind coming in the afternoon.”
“I’m sure,” I say. Maybe I shouldn’t be; maybe I should figure that this year is going to be the last year I get my mom all to myself, and make the most of it. But if change is coming (and it is! It definitely is) I’m feeling like it might as well come immediately. Let’s do it. Let’s have our weird blended family Christmas.
The last few years of high school, Mom generally had to drag me out of bed at some point Christmas morning so we could do the presents. I knew there wasn’t going to be anything all that exciting, and I’d usually stayed up too late the night before reading fanfic. This year is no exception: at ten a.m., Mom bangs on my door and yells, “come on, don’t you want to see what Santa brought? Maybe this year he brought us a pony!”
“Then you’ll need a house with a pony barn when you go house shopping in February,” I say, “because there sure isn’t room for a pony in this house.” I put on my bathrobe and come out of my room. Wells and my mother are both standing in the hallway beaming at me. “Okay, seriously, please tell me you didn’t actually get a pony?”
“Surprise!” they yell and move to the side so I can see into the living room.
They got me a drum kit.
The kit Nick has is the Yamaha DTX450K e-kit, and it’s a solid, good drum kit, way nicer than I can afford. The kit in our living room is the Yamaha DTX522, which is newer, nicer, and about twice as expensive . It’s the sort of kit that professional musicians view as adequate but aren’t likely to let me touch.
And part of me, the part of me that doesn’t trust Wells, that still isn’t thrilled about the sibling, is a little bit furious because it feels almost like a bribe.
But he’s going to be my stepfather. And the father of my sibling. And my fingers are already itching to try it out.
“Thank you,” I say. “Both of you. Your presents are not going to be this nice.”
There’s not a lot under the tree, but both Wells and Mom open their gifts and thank me. Wells laughs at the unicorns.
“There’s one more present from me,” I say, and hand them a thin, square package.
I had to go into Atlanta to find a store that sells vintage vinyl, with their gorgeous, big, square covers. But I found a store that had it, and for a lot less money than I was expecting because the vinyl itself was in terrible shape: Stevie Wonder’s album, Signed, Sealed, & Delivered , with a picture of Stevie Wonder reclining in a cardboard box. And I bought it a frame, because it’s not like you need the vinyl to listen to a song anyway.
“For the baby’s room,” I say. “And, you know. For the baby.”
When Abby saw what I was getting them, she got a little teary and said she wished she could see my mom’s face when she opened it, but I don’t want to wreck the mood by whipping out my camera for a photo. I’ll just have to remember, and draw it for her later.