Their Protector: An MC Outlaw Halloween Romance, page 67
And then there’s only one thing left for Jensen, Harlow and I to do before tomorrow arrives. We go to my dad’s gravesite.
His tombstone is a bit dusty, so we sweep it off until we can read the words on his headstone clearly:
Devoted Father and Beloved Friend.
Then we prop up a wreath we brought, made out of blue and white flowers— his favorite color was blue. I know that the flowers will wilt and die long before I’m here again, but it comforts me to imagine that Dad knows we visit him and that we’re thinking of him.
“Dad,” I say, always the ringleader in these sorts of things. “Harlow and I are going back to Afghanistan tomorrow, but only for six months. We’ll be back soon.”
“And we have something to celebrate,” Harlow adds. “Whitney and I are engaged.”
“Can you believe it?” asks Jensen. “Two of your three sons, tied to an old ball and chain.”
There’s an awkward silence. The mood isn’t as jovial as it was at the restaurant or on the train. I guess we’re all thinking of saying, “Don’t worry, Dad. It’ll turn out okay.”
No one wants to be reminded of how it didn’t work out for Dad— how I’m the only one with the guarantee of escaping heartache. Or at least, as far as they know.
I wish I could tell Dad that I found someone, too. Except, I didn’t. Did I? I’m so confused and I only wish my dad could be here to give me some advice.
“Okay, Ramsey, do you want to play the song now?” Jensen asks, jarring me out of my thoughts.
I’m glad to have something else to think about. Something else to do.
I pick up my guitar and play the song I wrote for Dad, which is something that’s quickly becoming a tradition when the three of us gather at Dad’s gravesite.
I always wanted to say goodbye.
But how can I do that when I can’t let go?
I never wanted to say goodbye.
Because you’re still with me, wherever I go.
When I finish playing, the lyrics haunt me. I wrote them for Dad— before I even knew Monica— but now they’ve taken on a new, additional meaning, involving her.
“Well, I’m going to go ahead and get home,” Jensen says, nodding towards his bike. “I’ll come pick you both up in Riley’s car tomorrow morning, and drive you to the base.”
“Sounds great, thanks,” Harlow says. He lingers near the grave, his foot kicking up a little bit of grass, and I can sense that he’d like some alone time with Dad. I guess he has some things to discuss in private.
“See you in the morning,” I say, hugging him.
I walk back to my Jeep, and turn the engine on. The Just For One Weekend soundtrack that Monica made me starts blasting right away, and it happens to be randomly playing “Under the Bridge.”
At least I have the love of a damn fine city like Albuquerque, I think to myself. But the city really is my only companion.
And whose fault is that ? I ask myself.
I sit in the Jeep while the sun sets, until I see Harlow head to his car, on the other side of the parking lot. If he notices me still sitting here, he doesn’t acknowledge me, and I’m grateful for that.
Once I see him drive away, I turn off the Jeep and walk back down to Dad’s gravesite.
“I wanted to ask you something, Dad, before I leave. I mean, even though I know you’re always with me, everywhere, I wanted to tell you here at your gravesite,” I say out loud. “I know that you and Mom had a bad ending, but a good start. You were in love with her, and you always did everything you could to let her and everyone else know.”
I can almost hear my dad’s voice, see his kind eyes.
What’s your question, Son?
“I used to think you were weak for loving her so much,” I tell him. “I didn’t really understand. But now I see it was what you lived your life for. Mom, and us, gave you purpose and meaning. And that’s more than a lot of people have in their lifetime. So I guess my question is…”
“How did you know it was real love? How did you know it was worth risking— and enduring— heartache for?”
There’s silence, of course. I didn’t really expect my dad to be able to answer.
But I already know the answer, just as clearly as if he was saying it to me out loud.
When it’s real, you just know it. You just feel it. And you can’t fight it, no matter how hard you try.
Chapter 27 – Monica
4 Months Later
I’m in the hospital, and I’m so scared.
“Everything’s going to be all right,” Susan reassures me, stroking my free hand, the one that isn’t hooked up to IVs and wires. Then she pats me on the shoulder, her hand touching the thin cloth material of my hospital gown. “I think this can be perfectly normal in pregnancy.”
“Perfectly normal? Susan, I don’t think so.”
She looks hurt, and I know she’s only trying to help, so I add, “I mean, I hope you’re right, but I think bleeding and cramps are signs of… abnormal things… in pregnancy.”
Not to mention the pelvic pressure that won’t let me sleep or walk , I think. But I don’t want to scare Susan any more than she already is.
“You’re past the miscarriage timeframe, though,” she says. “It might be normal later in pregnancy for things to go a little… wonky.”
She’s right that I made it past the most common miscarriage point, much to my delight. I tried not to let myself get too excited about this pregnancy— and I certainly didn’t tell anyone other than Susan— until after twelve weeks had passed and I was safely in the second trimester.
As the baby has grown, so has my excitement. I enjoy knowing that I have a little secret that only the baby and I know about— and a few select others. After I told my parents, and my friend Trish from high school, I knew no one would ever understand.
“Who’s the father?” they wanted to know, right away.
“I’d prefer to keep that to myself,” is my standard answer.
“Was it a… one night stand ?” Trish asked, lowering her voice as if we were discussing a horrible event instead of the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
“No,” I told her, snappishly. Not exactly, anyway .
“Don’t you think he has the right to know ?” asked my mother, furrowing her brow at me in disapproval.
“Maybe, but I don’t think everyone else has that right,” I’d shrugged, defiantly.
But really, the question of whether or not he— Ramsey— had the right to know has been weighing heavily on me. I haven’t been able to get him out of my head, and it doesn’t help that I’ve been feeding my fantasies by playing that damn sound track music over and over again.
He’d even called a couple times, but each time was brief and hurried. He’d told me that he was safe, that he couldn’t tell me his unit’s exact location due to strict security measures, but that they didn’t have good communication abilities with the outside world and he would try to call in a couple months once they changed locations— which would be any day now.
Sometimes I wonder if his phone calls were just ways to distance himself from my life and slowly fade away. But then, why call at all? To ease his conscience? To talk to me without really talking to me? It was confusing.
Something tells me, though, that I should have faith in him. He’ll call me again when he can, and hopefully we’ll be able to talk longer, just like he said. I have no reason not to take him at his word, as he’s never lied to me. In fact, he’s been excruciatingly honest.
And I suppose I should tell him about the baby when we can next talk. Although that could bring him more stress in an already stressful situation. Maybe I should wait until he gets back, although he might never want to know.
He might think I tricked him by telling him I couldn’t get pregnant. I think the thing I fear most is a negative reaction from
As the doctor comes back into my room, I’m quickly reminded that what I fear the most is something being wrong with this pregnancy. I’m already so attached to the baby, and would hate to lose it.
I’m in the process from retiring from the Air Force and feel ready to focus on motherhood. First, I’m using my sick leave and maternity leave and then after that I’ll get out for good. I don’t know how I would cope with a pregnancy loss, especially this far along.
Chapter 28 – Monica
“Ms. Carrington,” the doctor says, sitting down in a chair, beside my bed. Susan scoots her plastic chair over to the wall, to make more room. “According to the ultrasound results, everything looks good with your baby. He’s doing just fine in there.”
“He’s?” I ask, a slow smile spreading across my face.
“I’m sorry,” the doctor says. “I assumed the ultrasound tech told you the gender. Did you not want to know?”
“Yes, I do want to know,” I tell her. “I mean, I would have been happy with either gender. I just want a healthy baby. But it’s so sweet that it’s a boy.”
I smile at Susan and say, “A boy cousin for Mason! Becky will be disappointed it’s not a girl.”
I instantly feel more of a connection to him now that I know his gender. I’ll have to start thinking of names.
“We’ll start getting the nursery ready, with little boy clothes, and we can paint it blue…” Susan says, sounding nearly as excited as I am.
I continue to smile at her. I’m really grateful for her help and support. It’s funny, how at first I was the one helping her, and now the tables have pretty much turned. But I think that my having this baby gives both of us some much needed focus, and hope.
“So, yes, the baby is fine,” says the doctor. “But your ultrasound and internal exam show that you may have an incompetent cervix. That could certainly explain your recent symptoms.”
“A what?” I ask her.
Incompetent sounds scary, as if my cervix can’t do its job. I have to remember basic biology lessons to remind myself that the cervix is the lower part of my uterus, that closes off the womb from the outside world. I know it’s the thing that dilates during labor, but that’s about all I know about it.
“It basically means that there is weak cervical tissue,” the doctor explains.
Then she looks at my chart. “This is your first pregnancy, correct?”
I think back to all the times I tried, unsuccessfully, to get pregnant. And then, when I thought it was all for the best and I didn’t even think I wanted a baby, this miracle happens, and causes me to re-think everything.
In case it makes a difference, I add, “I had tried before, for quite a while, but they finally told me I was unable to have children.”
“You’ve never had a miscarriage or pregnancy loss?” the doctors asks.
“No. Never. Just… infertility, I guess.”
“Well, it’s good that we caught this early on then. You had good motherly instincts, coming in as soon as you experienced symptoms.”
I smile, proud of myself and feeling as if I deserve a Mother of the Year trophy already. But then I remember that I was in pain and very fearful; what else would I have done except come to the hospital?
“Often an incompetent cervix doesn’t show signs until later in the first pregnancy, and by that time it can be too late,” the doctor continues. “It can result in miscarriage or premature birth. Then we know to take preventative measures during the subsequent pregnancy. But in your case, I’m going to go ahead and recommend we get started with these measures now.”
“Okay,” I tell her, still a bit fearful because she mentioned miscarriage. “Whatever is best for the baby.”
“It’s still possible that you’ll give birth prematurely, but hopefully we can make sure it’s late enough in the pregnancy to be viable,” she says.
My heart speeds up, worried and fearful.
“We’ll put you on medication called progesterone supplementation,” she continued. “We’ll give you a cervical cerclage, which is a surgery where we’ll stitch your cervix closed with strong sutures. They’ll need to be removed during your last month of pregnancy, or during labor.”
“Okay,” I tell her.
“And you’ll have extra monitoring via ultrasounds to make sure the cervix stays closed and the baby is still doing well. Does all of that make sense?”
“I’d also advise you to limit your activities. You don’t need to go on complete bed rest, but you’ll want to make sure to avoid strenuous exercise, or prolonged walking or even standing. Are you currently working?”
“No,” I tell her.
“Okay, that’s good,” she says, and I’ve never been so glad to not be active Air Force, which is ironically the one thing that used to define me.
“You should really try to avoid vigorous activity,” the doctor says. “It wouldn’t hurt to stay in bed as much as possible. Do you have a…?”
She asks, and then looks at Susan, seated quietly in the chair by the wall. I know she was going to ask if I had a partner, but thought better of it.
“I’m her sister-in-law and I live with her,” Susan volunteers, eagerly. “I have two children of my own so I’m used to pregnancy issues. I can help her, and do whatever she needs.”
“Great,” the doctor says, looking relieved. “You should really take this time to just relax. Take Susan here up on her offer to help you out. Try to focus on getting rest and staying horizontal or at least just seated as much as possible, rather than running around being up on your feet all day every day. Okay?”
“Yes,” I tell her.
It will be hard for me. I’m used to staying active. But I know I have to do what’s best for my baby, and at least I don’t have to be on strict bed rest. Perhaps some time to relax will do me good.
“Do you have any questions?” the doctor asks.
“Just… when will I get that surgery you mentioned?”
I’m anxious to get my cervix stitched up, so that the baby will sit tight.
“We can do it right now, or as soon as they’re ready to wheel you up to surgery,” the doctor says, making a note in my chart. “I’ll go check on the status, but it shouldn’t be too long. It will be a short surgery, so if Susan lives close by she can come pick you up afterwards, maybe?”
“Sure,” Susan says, getting up and walking over to the bed.
“Okay, well it was nice meeting you and I wish you all the best with this pregnancy,” the doctor says.
I smile at her as she leaves the room, then I tell Susan, “You can go ahead and go. I know you have to pick up Mason and Becky soon, and it doesn’t sound like you’re needed or even allowed in the surgical area.”
“Are you sure?” she asks, holding my hand in hers. “I’m so glad to hear that everything should be okay. I told you…”
“Yes, you did,” I say, grinning. “I’m glad they can do this surgery right away. I’ll call you when I’m done so you can just swing by with the kids and hopefully they can wheel me outside to meet you or something.”
Susan uses a 24-hour drop-off daycare when she needs it, because I’m her only relative that lives here, and until recently I worked a lot. It’s not exactly cheap, and I’m grateful she could bring me to the hospital and be here with me, but I also don’t want to hold her up any more than I have to.
“Okay, love you,” she says, bending down to give me a kiss on the forehead.
“Love you too. Thanks for everything!”
I put on my headphones and start playing the Just For One Weekend soundtrack I’d made for Ramsey. “Motorcycle Drive-By” is on, which is fitting but doesn’t bode well for the future.
As I reflect on th
I’m still a bit afraid for the baby, but I’m glad to have answers and hopefully a solution. Everything is falling into place, and I’m excited for the future. I wish that Ramsey could be here with me and be a part of this but I know that’s not how life works. No one can get everything they want.
Chapter 29 – Ramsey
One Week Later
My unit finally moves to a more stable base camp, and Harlow and I mention calling home to let the family know we’re okay and where they can reach us via mail, at least.
As we set up our tents, one of the guys— Chad— says, “Is it alright with you guys if I use the phone room first, privately? My sister is undergoing cancer treatment, and I might just get a little…”
“Of course,” we say. “Go ahead and call her now. The rest of us can wait.”
“It’s so weird to think of everything going on back at home, while we’re out here,” says another of my buddies. “I know it’s only been about four months, but it feels like forever, since we were all back at Kirtland, doing our final training, and then pissing around during R&R.”
I try not to think about Monica, during the last visit I spent with her, when we walked on the beach and made fantastic love. I think I kind of screwed it up at the end, by laughing when she suggested Skyping with my family.
In my defense, I’d honestly thought it was a joke. But she’s been distant since then, more reserved. I plan to call her soon, but I don’t have high hopes for her reception of such a phone call.
Most of the time I’ve been here, I’ve felt okay, although we’ve been doing some risky operations. I listen to Monica’s soundtrack and keep plenty busy, just with work. I think of her often, but I feel it’s something in the past; just as she wanted and we both promised from the beginning. It must help me, though, because I haven’t had too many night terrors. When I do, I listen to the songs to help calm me down, and remember how Monica used to rub my back.