“I take it you’re the father?” Amy said, fighting a smile as she watched us.
Jude’s eyes opened. He lifted his shoulders. “Yeah. I’m the father.”
“Well, then, Daddy,” Amy said, glancing at her computer screen. “You ready to know what you’re having?”
Jude’s gaze shifted to the TV and his face went blank. Blank with awe. He’d been too caught up in our sorry-love makeup that he hadn’t noticed the baby on the screen. But he did now. And he couldn’t look away.
He could barely blink.
“Look at that,” Amy said, shaking her head. “Baby’s awake now. She must like her daddy’s voice.”
My head whipped to the side. “She?”
“You’re having a little girl,” Amy said, winking at me before glancing at Jude.
He was still transfixed, totally enamored as he watched our baby girl’s arms and legs move. Then a tear bubbled in the corner of his eye, before it fell down his cheek.
It was the first tear I’d seen Jude shed.
“How are you?” I asked softly.
“Speechless,” he breathed, studying the screen like it wasn’t real.
“That’s the first tear I’ve seen you cry,” I said, skimming my thumb down the moist trail it had left down his face.
“That’s the first tear I have ever cried,” he said, clearing his throat. “I can’t imagine a better time to let one fall than finding out I’m going to have a little girl with you, Luce.”
“Yeah,” I said, “I can’t either.”
“Well, we’re all done here,” Amy said. “But I’ll print you out some photos to put on your fridge and show off to all your friends, that kind of thing. So, say bye-bye, Mommy and Daddy.”
“Bye, baby,” I whispered, watching the screen. She was still moving around, almost dancing. She really was my daughter.
“Bye, baby girl,” Jude said, before the screen went black.
“You two can have a few moments in here,” Amy said, wiping my belly off with some tissues before standing up. “And here are your first baby pictures.” She handed me a strand of six photos taken from different angles. All of them brought a smile to my face.
This was our baby. Our baby girl. Surreal was the word of the day.
“Do you have some scissors in here?” Jude said, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand. “I want to put one in my wallet.”
Amy smiled at him and pulled a pair from her cart. Cutting the top one free, she handed it to him. “I don’t need long to know when a baby’s going to be well loved and cared for,” she said, handing the picture to Jude before heading for the door. “I didn’t need more than a few seconds with the two of you to know your little girl is one lucky baby.” She smiled and started closing the door. “Take your time.”
Jude carefully folded his photo before sliding it into his wallet, his expression peaceful.
“I’m so sorry I didn’t tell you right away, Jude,” I said, swinging my legs around as I sat up. “I never wanted to—”
“Luce, you don’t have anything to apologize for,” he said, staring at my stomach before meeting my eyes. “But I do. I behaved like an ass**le. I was an ass**le.”
I held up my hand, because I wasn’t going to let him take all the blame like he always did. “Lord knows I love you for saying that, but I’ve plenty to apologize for. So please let me. Okay?”
He took a seat next to me on the edge of the bed and nodded.
“I should have told you the minute after I found out I was pregnant,” I began, running my hands down my legs. “But I was scared. Terrified. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that I was pregnant, and I assured myself I’d tell you as soon as I’d gotten used to the idea. I think I’ve figured out that you don’t get ‘used’ to the idea of being pregnant when you’re an unmarried twenty-one-year-old trying to finish school.”
Maybe no one, no matter what their age or place in life, got used to the idea, because it was something so beyond comprehension. Something epic. Creating life. Sustaining life. Giving life. It wasn’t a concept that was easy to wrap any mind around.
“After a week passed and I wasn’t feeling any better, I knew I needed to tell you, but I didn’t want it to be on the phone, and I didn’t want it to be something I had to rush when I flew in for your first game. I wanted there to be a perfect time and place to tell you, so we could figure this curveball out together, but I should have remembered I’m a walking experiment in imperfect timing.”
Jude reached for my hand and weaved his fingers through mine.
“I should have told you sooner. I’m sorry I didn’t. And I’m really sorry you found out the way you did.” I squeezed his hand. “But I’m so, so happy you’re here with me now.”
“Me too,” he said, lifting my hand to his lips. “Are you done now? With your apology?” His lips grazed along my knuckles, heating the skin along the way. “Because I’ve got something of a monumental apology to make, too.”
“You’ve got the floor, Mr. Ryder,” I said ceremoniously.
Pressing one final kiss to my knuckles, he lowered our hands to his lap. “I walked out on you Saturday night because I was scared, too, Luce,” he said. “I was scared of the reasons you’d kept it from me in the first place. I was scared that you would forever resent me for getting you pregnant. I was scared that I didn’t have what it takes to be a father. I was scared of so much, but what I was mostly scared of was losing you.” His voice was tight as his eyes lowered to my stomach. “And losing our baby.