Chapter One ONE
It was always difficult to meet new people, especially friends of friends of the woman he intended to marry one day. So, when one of them asked Kyle Lambright about himself, he reckoned the best way to do that was to share a story about him and his brother. Leaning forward in his chair, he began.
“You see, from the time I was four or five, my favorite thing to do was follow my big brother Harley around.”
With a feeling of dread, Gabby sat down on the side of the bathtub and reluctantly picked up the plastic stick she’d just dropped on the linoleum floor. Her heart was pounding and her hand was shaking. And her eyes? Well, her vision was already blurred from the tears she was fighting back.
But no matter how much her body was attempting to ignore the information right in front of her eyes, she knew it was no use.
No matter how much the rest of her body wanted to reject the clear blue digital line on the plastic stick in her hand, it wasn’t about to go away.
No, the truth was right there in front of her eyes, clear as day. She was pregnant.
She braced a hand against the cold tile and attempted to take another breath. What was she going to do? How was she going to tell Kyle? Or her friends? Or Kyle’s parents? Or her mother?
Her stomach clenched. How was she ever going to tell her mother? Just thinking about her mother’s reaction made her feel nauseated.
“Gabby?” The door shook with her mother’s impatient raps. “Gabrielle, are you in there still?”
Still staring at that stick, she nodded. Then forced herself to speak. “Yes.”
The door handle jiggled. “The door’s locked.”
She was eighteen years old and in the bathroom. Of course it was locked. “I know.”
“Well, unlock it and come on out.”
Gabby’s eyes darted to the open pregnancy test kit on the floor. To her phone on the counter. To the can of Sprite that she’d picked up because it was the only thing that sounded remotely appealing. Each looked like evidence of her pregnancy. Each was sure to be an unwanted sign that would only ask for trouble in this house.
“Hold on, Mom. I’ll be out in five.”
She could practically see her mother tapping her shoe in irritation. “I don’t have five minutes to wait for you. I have to get to work in twenty minutes.” She jiggled the handle again. “Come on out. What are you doing in there anyway?”
“Uh, going to the bathroom?”
“For all this time?” Worry entered her tone. “How come? Are you sick?”
“Well, then come on. I’m sure your hair looks fine.”
Getting to her feet, Gabby scrambled around the small space, stuffing the test, the box it came in, and her phone in her purse, then zipped it shut for good measure. Then she washed her hands yet again before pulling open the door.
As she expected, her mother was still standing in the doorway, looking irritated and stressed. “Honestly, you would think by now you would be more respectful of other people in this house.” She rushed by Gabby and slammed the door in her face. “We have one bathroom for you, me, and your brother, Lane. Plus you know, you know that I always go to work at eleven on Saturdays.”
“I said I was sorry.” Gabby rolled her eyes and forced herself to stay in the hallway even though it was incredibly tempting to simply walk away.
She heard the toilet flush and the sink turn on. “Don’t forget that Lane needs to be picked up from wrestling practice at five.”
“I haven’t forgotten.” And honestly, Lane was almost seventeen. He’d have no problem reminding Gabby himself—or catching a ride with a friend if she wasn’t around.
“I left you a grocery list on the counter and fifty dollars. Don’t forget to go to the store.”
“I won’t.” Hadn’t she done the majority of the grocery shopping and cooking for the last two years?
“I’m going out after work, too. Will you two be all right?”
Gabby knew this was a rhetorical question. An answer wasn’t expected. Well, not an honest one, anyway. “Lane and I will be fine, Mom.”
The door opened. Her mother had on another thick layer of mascara and a fresh coat of pink lipstick. As usual, she looked pretty and put together. Far younger than forty years old.
“So, what are you going to do today?” her mother asked, sounding much more like herself. “Do you have plans?”
Before she picked up Lane, went to the store, and cooked dinner, she had something she had to do. “I’m going to see Kyle.”
The muscles around her mother’s mouth tightened before she nodded. Which was kind of a step forward. Mom didn’t like her boyfriend, not because of who he was—a nice boy nine months older than Gabby—but because he was Amish. Her mother had a real problem with anyone who was Amish. However, from practically the moment Gabby had first met Kyle, she’d felt drawn to him. Their differences had never mattered to her. Only the fact that she liked him so very much.
“I don’t want the two of you hanging out here by yourselves,” her mother said. For about the hundredth time.
“We won’t be,” Gabby replied, telling her mother the same thing she always said. Though, she realized with a flutter of nerves, it was also too late for that warning now.
“What will you do?”
“I’m not sure.”
Her mother opened her mouth, then shut it quickly. No doubt Mom was already mentally preparing her latest speech that highlighted all kinds of warnings about the dangers of teenage hormones and the harm they could do to the best laid plans.
It was a conversation they’d had many, many times. And one Gabby really, really didn’t want to talk about, since well, it was now evident that her mother had been right.
“Mom, don’t you have to go to work?”
“What?” She glanced at her watch then winced. “Oh my gosh. Erin’s going to kill me if I walk in late again. Bye.”
“Bye,” Gabby whispered as she watched her mother hurry down their narrow hallway, pick up an oversize tote from the kitchen counter, and rush out the front door.
Leaning against the wall, another fresh bout of tears threatened to fall.
What in the world was she going to do? She was eighteen, a product of a single mom, practically responsible for her younger brother, and was now pregnant because she and her boyfriend had taken things too far.
It was everything her mother had warned her could happen.
It was also everything she’d promised her mother never would.