“I’ve had a long morning.” Ann offered her a smile.
“Oh, no, shall I get the kettle on?”
“No, it’s fine. Katie and I are going to take the dogs for a walk, and then we’re going to head home. I hope that’s okay.”
“If you need to talk?”
“Maybe later. For now, I just want to deal with this.”
“Of course, of course.”
She got the leads for the dogs and walked them out of the house, down to the park.
Katie ran after them, throwing a ball and playing catch.
Tucking her hair behind her ears, she allowed herself to finally touch her stomach. There were no signs of pregnancy. No bump.
No nothing. Soon she would have a bump. A little piece of her time with Eli.
Would she ever be the same? Watching Katie, she knew it would break her heart to leave the little girl, but what other choice did she have? There were no other choices. Her life was about to change a lot.
After an hour out in the park, Katie was starved, and the dogs were tired. They walked them back to Elizabeth. She held on to the older woman, needing comfort of any kind in their goodbye hug.
Next, they were back in the car, and then at her home.
With her stomach settled, she cooked them up some pasta with vegetables, one of Katie’s favorites as she loved broccoli. The kid was obsessed with it, and she didn’t want to let her down, so broccoli it was, and pasta, possibly some cream, but again, she wasn’t sure.
With everything made up, they sat in the living room, eating.
Katie talked all the time about her school and what she was getting up to.
“And then we’re going to be learning math. I hate math. I like it when we add up and subtract but I hate everything else.” She wrinkled her nose. “What was your favorite lesson in school?”
“I didn’t have one. I just went to school, got my head down, did what I needed to do.”
“You went to college.”
“I want to go to college. I want to be super-smart like you or my dad. Ann, can I ask you something?”
“Sure, you can ask me anything.”
“Would you be my mommy?” Katie asked.
Tears filled her eyes as she looked at the little girl. “Katie, you already have a mommy.”
“No, I don’t. I don’t know her, and I don’t miss her. It’s weird, but everyone knows what it’s like to love a mommy and when they tell me what it feels like, I think of you. Always. You take care of me. When I’m sick, you read to me. When I’m not sick you cook food for me. You love me, don’t you, Ann?”
“Yes, of course I love you. I’ll never stop loving you.” She held her arms open and Katie threw herself into them.
“Katie, sweetie, you need to go and get ready for bed,” Eli said, startling the two of them.
They pulled apart and Ann got to her feet.
“Daddy, you forgot to pick me up,” Katie said, running toward her dad. She threw her arms around him.
“I know, honey, and I won’t do it again. There were a few things I had to do.”
“You did, like what?”
“When you’re older, you’ll find out.”
“I am always waiting to find out. No one will ever tell me anything. I’m old enough to know. I’m going to be six soon and I will have to know everything. I’m a big girl for my age.”
Ann smiled as Katie went to her room.
They were in her house but she already had a room for Katie.
“I stopped by Elizabeth’s place. She told me you already walked the dogs.”
“I did. I only remembered after I was driving Katie home.”
“Thank you for picking her up.”
“No problem. You know I love Katie. Erm, about what you heard…”
“My daughter loves you like a mother, Ann.”
“I don’t encourage it.” Damn, this was breaking her heart.
“You should,” he said.
She expected him to shout at her, to curse, to tell her she had no right being part of his family, and the sooner she got it through her thick skull, the better.
“I’m not really very good at any of this,” Eli said. “You’re pregnant and I don’t want you to get rid of the baby.”
“You don’t?” she asked. “You asked me what I wanted to do.”
“Because I didn’t know how to tell you that I love you.”
She opened her mouth, closed it. “I’m sorry. There’s no way I heard that right.”
“You heard it and you know you did.”
“You just told me that you loved me.”
“I did. Do you want me to tell you again?” he asked.
“You can’t love me.”
“But, why did you run out? Is this because of the baby? Are you doing the right thing because I’m pregnant, is that it? You don’t have to do something like that. This doesn’t have to change our lives like that.”