“Hey,” he said, stopping in front of me. Pulling his hands out of the pockets of his jeans, he attacked the buttons on my coat. “Were you so excited to see me you couldn’t put your jacket on correctly?”
I rolled my eyes. “Yep. You got me.”
He chuckled as he finished with the last button near my neck. “I don’t want you getting sick.”
Since that was kind of cute, I didn’t undo the last button even though I felt like it was one inch away from choking me. “I thought we could hit up this diner two blocks down. They’re fast and I’ve always been able to find a seat.
“Fine with me.”
Nick fell in step next to me as we headed toward the crosswalk, navigating the steady stream of people. Our arms brushed every couple of steps, making me aware of how close our hands were. Would he hold my hand? Should I initiate the contact?
Why was I even thinking about any of that?
Mentally kicking myself, I glanced over at him as we waited for the little person in the box to turn green. “So what brought you into the city?”
“I was shopping for a Halloween costume.”
“What?” I laughed.
He grinned. “I’m kidding. Though Roxy has Jax convinced that we all should dress up for Halloween this Saturday.”
“Are you dressing up?” Excitement bubbled up. I loved Halloween, and every year, I always got into it, dressing up and finding a party to go to. This year was going to be different, though. Even if I did know someone who was throwing a party, going to one felt weird knowing that I’d be six weeks pregnant. Or maybe that wasn’t weird and pregnant chicks still went to parties and bars and stuff. I had no idea. I needed to Google that later.
“I’m going as a bartender,” Nick answered.
I grinned as we crossed the street. Wind caught my hair, tossing it around my face. “That’s real creative, Nick.”
“I know, right? I think Roxy will be shocked,” he replied, grinning. “I actually came in this morning to talk to the admission people over at Strayer University about their online masters program.”
“Really?” I reached up, snagging a piece of hair that was trying to get in my mouth. “You’re seriously considering enrolling?”
He nodded, and I thought that either the cold wind was pinking his cheeks or he was flushing. “Yeah, I’d been toying with the idea for a while and right now seems like a good time to make that move. Financially I’m doing okay, but with the baby coming, I need to . . .” His brows pinched, and my breath caught in my chest. “I need to really start thinking about the future. There’s no excuse for me not to do online classes, and with the way things are going with my grandfather, the flexibility of bartending isn’t going to be necessary for that much longer.”
The chill that skated over my skin had little to do with the cold. “What are you saying?”
Nick glanced over at me, his expression blank until I saw his eyes. Pain surfaced there, clearly visible. “I don’t think he has very much longer.”
“What?” My step faltered on the middle of the sidewalk outside the diner. “Nick—God, I’m sorry. Are you . . . are you sure?”
He stood, shoving his hands back in his pockets. “Yeah, on Tuesday I had to take him into his doctor, and with the episodes becoming more and more frequent, it’s kind of like the writing on the wall, you know? He was kind of hovering between the last two stages of the diseases, six and seven, the last year, but he’s definitely in the final stage now and he’s started having problems swallowing and . . . yeah, it’s happening.”
I pressed my hand against my chest, above my heart. “I don’t know what to say.”
“I know. It’s not easy to even think about him passing, because no matter what fucked up things happened growing up, he was always there for me.” He cut those words off abruptly and looked away. “I don’t want to take him out of his home, so I’m meeting with . . . with Hospice next week.” Nick cleared his throat. “Then they’ll come out and see him. I think I’ve got time with him, but . . . it’s nearing the end. I just know it is.”
There really weren’t words for things like this, so I stepped forward and placed my hand on his arm. His gaze shot to mine, and I stretched up, pressing my lips against his cheek. When I settled back on my heels, I still held on to his arm. “I’d like to meet your grandfather, Nick.”
He didn’t respond for a moment. “It’s not easy being with him sometimes.”
“I know.” A cab raced by, blowing its horn.
Nick looked like he wanted to say more, but he stepped to the side and opened the door to the diner. “Come on. Let’s stuff our faces.”
We had a good lunch, chatting about nothing important, and Nick didn’t bring up his grandfather again. There was no mistaking the fact that even though Nick and I were attempting to bring our lives together, some things were still so very separate.
And it wasn’t just him.
It was me, too.
That night, I texted Roxy about Halloween at Mona’s, partly out of boredom, but mostly due to curiosity. She was most definitely dressing up, but she wouldn’t tell me what she was going as.
You shld come and see for urself! It will be fun!
I stared at Roxy’s text, and the humming excitement from earlier returned. It would be nice to get out and do something. Since I’d moved here, I hadn’t really done anything social except Sunday Fun-day, and the two times I’d gone to Mona’s. I was getting tired of seeing the inside of my apartment, but should I really go to a bar? I texted that question to Roxy.
Her response made me laugh. I didn’t suggest u come and get drunk. So why not? And a follow-up text pointed out that Avery had been in Mona’s after finding out she was pregnant. I had forgotten that, but I did remember Cam stood around her like her own personal bumper car if anyone got too close.
Yeah, why not? I still wasn’t too sure, so I decided to Google it, and then I immediately regretted doing so, because of opinions. Dear God, everyone had opinions. But the most hilarious thing I discovered, when typing out Is it okay for pregnant woman to go, Google autopopulated it as: Is it okay for pregnant woman to go to a haunted house.
What the what?
The consensus was that it was pretty much okay as long as it was safe. Mona’s didn’t allow smoking inside and the place wasn’t wild.
Early pregnancy must affect memory, because I ended up forgetting about it until Saturday evening. Handing out candy was a total bust since only a handful of kids lived in the condo and they piled into cars and drove into the city or to subdivisions. I found myself standing in front of my closet, holding a large bowl of candy. Mindlessly searching out boxes of Nerds, I debated my options. I could sit here and pig out on sugar or I could get my ass in a car and go hang out with people.
Being pregnant didn’t mean I needed to sequester myself.
And the anticipation brewing inside of me was another good reason to go. I wanted to see Nick because I . . . I actually missed him. With our opposite schedules and what was going on with his grandfather, it limited the time we could see each other. And it didn’t help that neither of us was real skilled when it came to the whole relationship business. We didn’t make plans to see each other like I imagined normal couples did.