“I didn’t think—”
Heather’s words are cut off when Tyler comes through the front door. His gaze lands on me first, and confusion fills his eyes before he sees his sister. Then happiness settles into his features.
“What are you doing here?” he asks with a wide smile as Heather rushes across the room and into his arms. I watch the two of them embrace, rocking from side to side. Kennedy screeches loudly, not wanting to be left out of the reunion, so I pick her up and take her to her mom and uncle. “Hey, little one,” Tyler whispers, touching her cheek when he locks eyes with his niece.
Instead of going to Tyler, she wiggles out of my arms and latches on to her mom, tucking her face into Heather’s neck. Tyler laughs and wraps his arms around the three of us. I feel something deep within my heart fill during the embrace. This is what I want, except I want to feel Tyler wrapped around me and our kids one day. I want to feel his strong arms surrounding us as we welcome him home from work. I want a lifetime of this feeling.
“How long are you here for?” he asks once he’s let his sister and niece go, and then he wraps his arm around my shoulders.
“Just through the weekend. I wanted to see you since I won’t be able to get away for Thanksgiving,” Heather says, seeming to tighten her hold on Kennedy, like she might disappear.
“He’s not letting you leave for the holiday?” Tyler guesses, and Heather nods. “Dick.”
I feel his anger like a physical thing beating against me. I rest my hand against his stomach and look up at him. I hate how upset he looks, and I hate worse there’s nothing I can do to change it.
“Are you hungry?” I ask Heather, wanting to change the subject and, hopefully, the mood in the room. After she nods, I tell her, “There’s a great Mexican place near here. Do you like Mexican food?”
“I love Mexican food.” She goes to the couch, and I see her pick up a small bag covered in flowers and lay Kennedy down on a mat.
I look up at Tyler. “You should take them to eat.”
“You’re coming with us.”
“Are you sure? I don’t want to intrude, and maybe you two need some time alone.”
“I appreciate you saying that, baby, but I want you with us. I want you to get to know my sister while she’s here.”
“If that’s what you want,” I agree quietly.
“It’s what I want.” He touches his mouth to mine in a short kiss. “I’m going to change. When I get done, we’ll head out.”
“Sounds good.” He gives me a squeeze before walking off, and I watch him go. I ask Heather, “Do you want me to help with anything for Kennedy?”
“No, I’m used to doing it on my own.” She smiles at me, and I hate that is something she’s used to. Being a single parent isn’t easy, but being a single parent when you’re in a relationship must be worse.
“I can make a bottle,” I tell her, picking up a half-empty one from the coffee table.
“It’s okay. She had one not long ago, and I have travel formula packs. I’ll just bring those and a jar of her food with us and feed her at the restaurant.”
“Okay,” I agree, watching her change Kennedy’s diaper and put her in a different outfit, one warmer than the simple onesie she had on before. I take the bottle in my hand to the kitchen and rinse it, then place it in the sink.
“Do you mind holding her while I go to the bathroom?” Heather asks once she’s standing with Kennedy in her arms.
“Not at all.” I hold out my hands as she reaches for me. I place her on my hip and look down at her sweet little face before looking at her mom. “She’ll be okay.”
“Thanks.” She leaves and heads down the back hallway. I watch her go, then take a seat on the couch, laughing as Kennedy tries to eat my hair and drools on me in the process.
“Is Heather changing?” Tyler asks. He appears at the edge of the couch wearing different jeans and a long-sleeve henley.
“Using the bathroom.” I smile as he takes a seat next to us.
Kennedy loses interest in my hair and lunges for her uncle, who easily accepts the burden of her wiggling body. “She seems off,” he states quietly, and I know he’s talking about his sister.
“I don’t know her, but I think you’re right,” I whisper back. “This weekend, you should find time to talk with her alone. If you want, I’ll watch Kennedy. Maybe she’ll open up about things with you.”
“I think that’d be good,” he agrees. I lean into his side and watch him play with his niece. When Heather comes back, we all go out to dinner. It’s not the date we’d planned for tonight, but then again, it’s better, because I get to spend time with Tyler and his family.