This Isn't You, Baby(8)

By: K Webster

Her shoulders loosen as we chat about school and Calder and the baby. Whenever the topic strays toward Hannah and she gets teary-eyed, I change the subject. The doorbell saves us from our latest near conversation about my sister.

“I’ll pay the pizza man if you’ll bag up that trash and take it out,” she says before waddling out of the kitchen. I’m knotting the plastic ties when I hear her screech.

Fuck, if her water broke, Dad is dead.

“Please don’t tell me you’re having the baby—” My words die in my throat upon seeing Gabe in our doorway holding a bundle of blankets. It’s been years since I’ve seen him in the flesh. “What the fuck are you doing here?” I fist my hands, preparing to beat the old man’s ass. I’m about to drive my fist into his nose when something squirms in his arms.

“Baylee, hear me out…” His plea falls on deaf ears.

“Ren! Call 911!” she hisses. Her hands automatically fall to her belly as if she’s protecting Mason from the psycho prick.

Gabe takes two long strides toward her and snatches her by the shoulder. “I said fucking listen to me,” he seethes.

Mom’s eyes widen in fear.

“Let her go!” I roar and storm toward him.

It’s then the blanket falls away and a curly blonde-haired toddler with big brown eyes wearing a royal blue dress grins sleepily at me. Gabe releases my mother’s shoulder and thrusts the baby toward her. “Baylee, meet your granddaughter.”

Mom is frozen as she simply stares at the child. When the baby sees me again, she grins so wide and lets out a squeal. “Teev! Teev!” She’s reaching for me but I don’t know what to do. Fuck! Of all days for my father to be out of town.

“She thinks you look like Steve from Blue’s Clues. The kid’s obsessed with those DVDs,” Gabe says softly, his tone wistful. He presses a kiss against the baby’s head. “She turned two a few months ago. That’s your Uncle Ren,” he tells her.

“Teev! Teev!”

My heart thumps in my chest. The little thing is starting to get fussy because she’s reaching for me and I haven’t taken her. With a grunt, I storm over and pull her into my arms.

“Why are you here?” I demand, my eyes never leaving the little girl who looks like Hannah, but with Gabe’s eyes.

He runs his hands through his hair and gives Mom a pointed look. “Baylee, you have to take her.” His gaze falls to her belly and his jaw clenches. Mom remains deathly still, her glare fixed on him. “She isn’t safe.”

The baby tries to stick her pudgy finger in my nose, and I laugh. “What’s your name, little girl?”

She giggles and buries her face against my neck. “Teev.” Her sigh only further melts my heart.

Gabe tears his gaze from Mom and frowns at me. “Toni Lynn Sharpe.”

Mom sucks in a hiss of air. “You motherfucker…”

“Hannah named her after her grandparents. And now…” He lets out a groan of frustration. “You have to take her.”

“This is madness. I’m calling the cops,” Mom seethes.

But even though she’s making threats, her eyes keep sneaking over to little Toni. The child must be tired because her squirming stops and her breathing evens out.

“No, madness, Baylee, is having to keep a constant fucking watch on your kid so your jealous wife doesn’t hurt her in the middle of the night. Madness is having to tie your wife to the goddamned hotel room bed so you can give yet another perfect little girl in your life to another family…again…so your wife doesn’t kill her. Madness is staying with an unhinged and unpredictable woman that should be locked away because you know she’s better off with you than anywhere else.” His chest heaves with labored breaths. Dark circles rim his eyes and his hair is messy, probably from the way he keeps running his fingers through it. He’s exhausted. “Madness is not begging her to abort the child she’s now growing in her belly that you know she’ll grow to hate. I’ve never claimed to be a sane man.” His head hangs in shame. “But, goddammit, I love this kid and I love my wife and I love the one on the way. I’ll do whatever it takes to keep them all safe.”

Mom remains stock-still but a solitary tear runs down her cheek. I walk over to her so I can wrap an arm around her. “Hannah wants to hurt the baby?”

This doesn’t surprise me. It pisses me the fuck off but it doesn’t surprise me.

“I fell asleep on the couch the other day and awoke to find Toni shivering in front of the bathtub. The bathroom door had been closed so she couldn’t get out, her eyes were red from crying, and she kept telling me, ‘Momma, no.’ Toni was angry with her mother for leaving her for fuck knows how long. She could have fucking drowned or gotten hypothermia or some shit. Hannah was out back tanning by the pool at our new house reading a fucking magazine like it was no big deal.” His body ripples with rage. “But it was a big deal. And worse yet, she keeps doing shit like that. Little stuff. Accidents keep happening. Hannah gets bolder and bolder as her pregnancy progresses and I’m afraid one day I won’t be there in time. When she’s pregnant, she doesn’t take her meds. Claims they’re bad for the baby. We don’t exactly have a primary care physician to support her claims.”