He looks absolutely helpless. Tag, I mean. Not Benji. Benji actually looks comfortable. He’s not crying right this second. They hooked him up to IVs and gave him some medicine to bring down his fever. It was just an infection. A simple one. Antibiotics should clear it up. They did a bunch of blood work and pronounced him okay.
Tag is a little bit more of a problem.
“Would you stop pacing?” I say.
“I’m not pacing,” he argues. But he doesn’t stop walking.
“Okay, then stop walking briskly back and forth. You’re causing a draft.”
He stops and stares down into the bassinette. “In my head, I’m trying to plan,” he says quietly.
“Plan for what?”
He shrugs. “Plan for his life. Plan to take care of him. Plan to be a good father who can fulfill his needs. I don’t even have a job, Finny.” He heaves a sigh and then scrubs the heels of his hands into his eyes.
“It’s late,” I say. “You can think about all that tomorrow.”
“I have to find a job.”
“And someone to watch him while I work.”
“Dude, you have two sisters and they have three sisters and a mother. I think you’ll be covered.”
He snorts. “I can’t ask my family to watch him. I can’t keep taking advantage.” He grips the edge of the bassinette so tightly that his knuckles turn white. “Don’t you see?” he bites out. “What if I caused this?”
“What do you mean?”
He stands there with his eyes closed tightly. “I was angry when I came back from my mission trip and found out Julia didn’t want to be with me anymore. I did some things I regret. Said some things I regret.”
“To her?” She probably deserved it.
“To God,” he says. “I said it to God.”
Oh. Now I get it. “And you think God’s mad and he’s punishing you?”
“I think I wasn’t grateful for the gifts I’ve been given, yes.”
His head jerks up. “What?”
“Bullshit,” I say again. I hold up my hands when he starts to speak. “Oh, wait, I cursed. You think something terrible is going to happen to me?”
“That’s not amusing.”
“When I’m trying to make you laugh, you’ll know it.”
“I’m just worried that my doubts could cause a ripple effect,” he says quietly.
“You still have faith, right?” I don’t fully understand faith. Not now. But I respect the fact that he has it.
He nods. “Of course.” He winces. “But I was angry. And I said some things I shouldn’t have.”
“So, unsay them,” I tell him with a shrug.
He looks confused. “What?”
“God’s not a vengeful dude, dumbass. He’s benevolent. He’s all-knowing, too, so he knows your heart. Unsay whatever it is you said and you can be done with it.”
“You believe in God?” he asks me. He stares into my eyes.
I drag my finger up and down a crack in the wall. “I used to spend a lot of time with the preacher and his wife in our small town. When my mom would go off the deep end, they took me home with them. So, yes, I know who God is.”
“Will you think I’m stupid if I believe?” He watches my face closely.
“Dude, I already think you’re stupid.”
He grins. “When everything else was taken from me, my faith sustained me. If I abandon it, I feel like I’ll be abandoning a part of myself.”
I shrug. “So don’t.” My phone chimes and I look down at it. “Your sisters are on the way.” I get up from where I’m sitting. “I should probably go.”
“Don’t,” he says quickly.
“Don’t go. Please.” He tilts his head and smiles at me. “Please,” he says again.
My heart jolts. “Why do you want me to stay?” I hold my breath.
He shrugs. “I like you.”
“You like me? What are you, twelve? So what’s next, I get to ride on the handlebars of your bike?”
He smiles. “Would that be so bad?”
No. No, it wouldn’t be so bad. It would be kind of awesome. “We already have a date planned, and it involves visiting the inmate at the asylum,” I remind him. I don’t want him to think of me as a normal girl. I want him to remember I’m not a normal girl and I never will be.
“Something to look forward to,” he says with a grin.
“I don’t kiss on the first date, just so you know,” I say. I wince as soon as it comes out of my mouth. I shouldn’t have said that.
“Oh, you’d kiss me,” he says with confidence.
My heart skips. “You think so?”
“Yep. I got mad skills.”
Benji starts to fret in his crib, so I get up and go to him. I lay my hand on his belly and he stares up at me, calming immediately. His big eyes blink at me as he flails his hands and feet. “You feel better, Benji?” I ask him. He kicks again.
Tag walks up behind me, and I can feel him from the back of my head all the way to my shins. He puts a hand on my hip and sets his chin on top of my head, staring down into the bassinette. “I was so worried,” he says. “I’m so glad you came home when you did.”