I didn’t sleep a wink that night. I couldn’t. I couldn’t get Reese’s words out of my head. He loves me. I knew he had to like me…no. He loves me. Someone loves me. It just seems to out of the ordinary. No one has ever really loved me past my family. I mean not even Peyton’s father told me he loved me. Not when I told him I loved him, not when I told him I was pregnant, not when I would sit and do what he wanted. Never.
I looked over at Reese. This man has done so much for my family and he barely had a connection to us. I don’t mean I’m not grateful for what he’s done. I just don’t understand it. How an almost stranger can love me more than someone I dated for years. I heard movement in the baby monitor around 6 am. I was curled on Reese’s curl listening to his heart beat before in the wee hours of the morning but I was now sitting at the end of the bed just thinking. I sat curled in an old quilt from the closet just listening to the surroundings.
Moments like this make me miss being home. Missed going out on a ride on the horses to get away from everything and everyone who bugged me. I would just sit there for hours not doing anything but stare out at the large pond we have on our land. We would let the horses and cows out when it was nice out for them to roam. What I would give to go there now. To lie in the sun and just think. But now? I’m in an apartment at 6 o’clock in the morning not being able to sleep. I used to wonder what’d I be when I grew up. Would I be a Cowgirl? Or a rancher? A Doctor like my mom? But I never thought I’d be in a small apartment in the city waiting for my daughter to wake up. I couldn’t even imagine that daughter not having a father either.
I couldn’t go back to him. Not after what he’d done to her. I think I would go back to him. So she could have a father but I knew it wouldn’t work. He doesn’t love her. I know that. She was a mistake to him, the greatest gift I could ever have. It’s my job to protect my baby now, it’s why I left. Why I asked Mace to help me leave that town. I had to make a better life for her. She shouldn’t fall in my footsteps. She didn’t need to be like us. What we have back home is the ‘Gene Circle’. Gene, why we use it? No idea. But once you get to the lower class, once you barely can get by, and you get pregnant, you hit the ‘Gene Circle.’ You pretty much become bare foot, pregnant going out of your mind. If you were born into it you were going to be the next one in the circle, taking after your parents. It’s why it’s called a circle, it’s never ending.
Not many people have gotten out of the circle. No one I knew. My brothers told me there was another family that had two of their kids go off the circle. One went the Mace route, joined the marines. The other got a degree and went to the city, away from our small town. As much as the gossip spreads between all the people there, I try to stay out of it. The key word is try. Andrew is a big, big gossiper. More than little old ladies who spend their days talking at the old folk’s home. It was crazy.
I needed out of that circle. I knew I was already in it with Peyton, but I wouldn’t let the same happen to her. She would not be pregnant early in life. I want her to have the best life I could give. Even if I had to work every day of my life from dawn till twilight. She is everything to me and always will be. I promised her the day she was born that I’d take care of her. I almost broke that promise, but Mace helped me see my wrong, helped me get out. I will forever be grateful of him.
“Do you always think this hard in time in the morning?” I turned to look over my shoulder at Reese.
“Sometimes I do.” I turned to look back out of the window. “Why don’t you go back to bed? It’s still early.” I heard movement on the bed as sheets ruffled around.
“Come lay with me then. I want to hold you still.” I felt his hands on my shoulders. “Halyn?” I turned to look at him. His eyes searched my face. “What’s wrong?” I closed my eyes as his hand came to my cheeks gently wiping the cheek. I knew I was crying before, but I thought I stopped hours ago.
“Nothing,” I tried to turn away back to where I was sitting before. The place was still warm, and I wanted the comfort of the warmth.
“Come here.” He tugged gently at my quilt covered hand. “That’s not nothing.” He whispered tugging me into his arms. He pulled the blanket tight around me, putting his forehead against mine. “Tell me what’s hurting you baby.” He pressed a gently kiss to my lips. “I know you haven’t slept at all.” He held me closer. “Is it because I’m here? Do you want me to go?” I shook my head holding onto him.
“Please don’t go.” I whimpered. He kissed me stroking my hair pushing it behind my ear gently.
“What did I do to make you not sleep?” I looked up at him.
“No one ever told me they loved me who wasn’t related to me.” His face softened.
“You didn’t sleep because I told you I love you?” I shrugged.
“It got me thinking. My brother told me to stop thinking so much.” He gently stroked my cheek.
“Do you want to talk about it?” I sighed closing my eyes.
“It was just,” I took a deep breath, “about Peyton’s father.” I leaned my head against his shoulder. “There isn’t much I want to say about him.” He nodded kissing my head.
“I’m always here for you to talk.” I nodded holding on him. “Do you want to try to get some sleep?” I shook my head.
“I won’t be able to.” I sighed. He looked at the clock.
“How about you go take a nice relaxing bath while I take care of Peyton?” I nodded as I heard whimpering from her bedroom. “I have to stop at my place to get changed but I’ll take her with me.” I looked up at him. He’s known her for a day and a half. Do I trust him with her alone? “I promise I’ll be speedy. She’ll be safe with me. I promise.” I nodded kissing him.
“Please be safe with her. She’s everything to me.” He nodded kissing me again.
“I promise on every dollar I have, and every bone in my body, I’ll keep her safe.” I nodded quickly.
“Let me just kiss her good-bye.” He gently pulled my face back to look at him as I tried to get up.
“I won’t be really long, I promise. I just need to change and pick up some breakfast for the three of us.” I nodded.
“Okay, let me just kiss her.” I got up walking to her room to see those little hazel eyes looking at me. I picked her up kissing her cheek a bunch of time quickly making her giggle. “Good Morning baby.” I smiled at her.
“Mama.” She smiled at me. I held her tight before taking her out of the room. Reese smiled at me before taking Peyton from my arms.
“Hi, little baby.” He smiled at her kissing her cheek. She smiled putting her hand in her mouth. “Ready for a little trip?” She gurgled at him. “I’ll take that as a yes.” He looked at me. “Go take a bath and I’ll be back soon.” I nodded walking into the bathroom. I heard the door close when I grabbed my cell phone. I dialed my brother after I got undressed and into the tub.
“Yell-o?” Holden said into the phone.
“Hey Denny, Can you talk?” I relaxed into the hot water.
“Yeah, anything for my favorite sister. What’s up?”
“I’m your only sister, Denny.” I rolled my eyes smiling at him. “My car broke down again.” He sighed.
“I swear that thing is a piece of shit. It needs a new engine, but I can see if I can just fix it up again.” I put my head back into the water sighing.
“I can’t afford a new engine. It just cut out on me and it was at the worst time imaginable.” I huffed.
“It’s alright, Sis. I’ll fix it for ya’. Can you drive it at all?”
“I don’t think so. It wouldn’t start up but I’ll try later and text you.” I could almost hear him nodding.
“All right. If you can’t, we’ll figure out how to tow it here. I’m sure one of us can come get the two of you. Ya’ maybe a little almost whole family bonding time?” I heard the front door open and close again making me sit up. “Are you calling me while you’re naked again?” I smirked.
“Do you really want to know that?” I heard him shudder.
“No, I really don’t want that to know. Call me later, I’ll be working but can pick up the phone for my favorite sister.”
“Kiss up; I’m your only sister.” He laughed before shaking his head. “I’ll talk to you soon, Holden.”
“Alright, bye Sis.” I ended the call before starting to finish up my bath. I wrapped a towel around myself before opening the door. I walked to the kitchen to see Peyton strapped up in her high chair. Reese had put the fruit onto the high chair table. She was giggling eating the fruit. He turned to smile at own for his jaw to drop. I bit my lip pulling the towel tighter around me.
“I, uh, I bought bagels. And Coffee.” He cleared his throat. I blushed as I saw his eyes darken slightly.
“I should go get dressed.” I could feel my face getting darker as he nodded. I dried my hair and got dressed pulling on a pair of skinny jeans before putting in a new bellybutton ring. It was one of Peyton’s favorites, a giraffe one. I pulled on an old t-shirt putting on my sneakers. I pulled my hair into a ponytail putting my towel into the hamper. Peyton was watching Reese as he smiled at her eating his bagel. “What are you two doing?” I smiled as Peyton slammed her hands down smiling at me.
“Mama.” She giggled putting her hands up. I took her out of the chair wiping her mouth with his pajama shirt. Reese smiled at me pursing his lips for a kiss. I kissed him before putting Peyton for one too. She did and giggled.
“Come on Baby time for a change.” I readjusted her on my hip.
“While you do that I’m going to go to the bathroom.” I nodded trying not to look down from his face.
“Sure, just down the hall, last door to the left.” He nodded as I walked off into Peyton’s nursery putting her on the changing table. I changed her diaper pulling her into a grey little dress. I put on some sockets and shoes before picking her up.
“Need anything Baby?” I looked up at Reese as he stood in the doorway.
“Can you get the stroller out of the front closet and put it in your car? I just need to get my purse and we’re ready.” I picked up a pacifier walking out of the room putting it into my purse. I put in a bottle with the powder on the bottom that just needed water for later. I put a big bottle of filtered water into a water bottle and putting it into my purse as well. Peyton had a grin on her face, she knew we were going out and walking. “You ready for the zoo?” I asked her excited. Her mouth came into an O shape.
“Soo!” I kissed her head as I walked out closing the door behind us. “Soo!” She said when she saw Reese. He gently took her.
“Yeah the zoo.” I smiled watching as he put her into the car seat. He buckled her in before closing the door. He looked at me smiling. “What?” He asked. I shook my head before getting into the passenger seat.