A few days before his wedding, Harge was happy and nervous, and anticipating the breakdown Rindy would have when he inevitably forgot to pack whichever of her things was her most favorite this week.
“What do you think?” he asked with a smile. “Blue or black?”
He stood before Lilah with a tie held in each hand. She sat at the edge of his bed, ankles crossed, surrounded by a tiny explosion of clothes and suitcases.
Lilah chuckled. “How ever did you dress yourself before I came along?”
“This is a special occasion. I won’t have you angry at me for the next thirty years because I picked the wrong tie and ruined our wedding photos.”
Lilah reached up, hooking her fingers around the end of the black tie, tugging until Harge leaned down for a kiss. “Do you really think I’d be that spiteful?”
“I’ve had bad experiences.”
“Not with me.”
“No. But I say again, blue or black?”
“Darling, I cannot wait. And I will treasure the memory of marrying you no matter what tie you’re wearing at the time.”
“But for God’s sake, get the red silk. The black’s for funerals, the blue for business deals. I won’t have you ruining my wedding day with these abominable fashion choices.”
“Of course not.” He kissed her again while she was still laughing at him. Then he straightened up, setting aside the two offending choices and going in search of the third.
He packed a few more items into his and Lilah’s suitcases before going to Rindy’s much smaller one. He glanced at it’s contents—Ava had already packed most of them before going home this afternoon—then moved to the chair by the window. There was a woman’s sweater draped over the back of it, soft, cream, colored. He took it, folded it carefully, and made room for it in Rindy’s suitcase.
“She’s a beautiful girl,” Lilah said, watching him tuck the garment in near Rindy’s bathing suit, “but I’m not sure she’s ready to pull that off.”
“It’s Carol’s,” Harge said. “It was. Makes Rindy feel better sometimes, when Carol’s not there.”
Lilah hummed, watching him. “She seems to cope well enough, when Carol’s not there.”
Harge hummed his own response. He was trying to zip Rindy’s bag closed, but the tail of her favorite stuffed animal was getting in the way.
“She’s already away from Rindy most of the time.”
Harge hummed again, crushing Mr. Tarley’s head into the suitcase in a way Rindy wouldn’t appreciate if she could see.
“She already gave up custody. She can’t come back and fight you on it?”
“No.” Harge shook his head, fighting with the zipper. “She’s got no case.” Not compared to the one he had.
“Well then. What would you say about not having her around anymore?”
Harge stopped what he was doing, looked at her. “Oh?”
“She’s barely a part of Rindy’s life as is. And she complicates things.”
“She very much does that, yes.”
“So. What if I said I didn’t want complicated?”
Harge sat on the edge of the bed with her. “Some would say Rindy complicates things.”
“Not me. You know this. I adore Rindy.”
“And Carol is Rindy’s mother,” he said.
“She’s her mother,” Harge repeated. “Rindy’s attached.” He studied his fiancé, the look she pinned him with. “There’d have to be a reason. A good one.”
Lilah winced a little, touched her abdomen. “Such as?”
Harge leaned forward, resting his forehead against hers. He brought his hand down, covered the fingers on her belly with his larger ones. “Not tonight,” he said, voice a low rumble as he spread his fingers against taut skin, feeling the movement of the child inside. “She’s not the mother I want to talk about tonight.”
He kissed her forehead and she smiled. “He’s doing somersaults in there,” she said.
“Nah. I’m sure it’s a wedding dance.” He kissed her one more time, stood up. “Now, what else do you need? And not that damn girdle. You won’t need it anymore, and I won’t have my kid growing up short.”