“Did you call Ma yet, Princess? Because she finally took pictures with her fancy digital camera of where she wants to have the wedding. It’s in her backyard, which’ll make it cheaper for us, not that money is an issue, but Ma just wants to help as much as she can. She’s so excited that you want an outdoor wedding and she’s been combing the area for perfection… She’s just so happy,” Kevin repeated with a chuckle as he stretched out on the recliner, lazily flipping through the various stations on the TV. He was already in New York for another show and missing Austin terribly. Not a day passed when he wasn’t calling her, telling her how much he cared, and calling her by the title fiancée. He loved the way she actually giggled when he said it. Just hearing her voice made it easier to be in the tense environment that Nick and Howie were providing. It was hard to watch them, especially during shows. Of course, that was the only time that Kevin ever saw Howie. Sound checks and concerts. Then he disappeared.
"I called her this morning, babe, and she's supposed to be emailing the pictures to me later. And don't forget, when you come down here on your next break, we have to start looking at wedding cakes. Janie's cousin is willing to do it, but we just have to get over to her place and tell her what we want… Momma's making my dress, so I don't have to worry about that…" Austin trailed softly with a laugh. "And Momma Richardson reminded me that your brother is a preacher… Think you can get him to marry us for free?"
“Never thought you’d be the one scrimping and saving on a wedding,” Kevin chuckled softly. “Princess, I want you to have your dream wedding. Money doesn’t matter, because the honeymoon will be just as sweet.”
"This will be my dream wedding… I'm marrying you, remember?"
“What’s wrong? You’re being sweet…”
"Aren't I allowed to be sweet to my fiancé?"
“I’m not accustomed to it?”
"Oh, kiss my ass, Kevin… Does this mean I can ask for a horse-drawn carriage for us to ride to the reception in?"
“If you want to smell like horse shit, sure.”
"You are so unromantic, y'know that?"
“Yet you agreed to marry me?”
"Maybe 'cause I love you?"
“Well, I love you, too, Princess. And if you want a horse-drawn carriage, I’ll arrange it.”
"Score!" she squealed happily in his ear. "Wait 'till I tell Chey… Shit, I better not…"
“Shit you better not?” Kevin immediately caught with confusion, reaching for the remote to kill the TV. The simplistic statement caused Kevin’s stomach to curl into tight knots of worry. “What’s wrong with Angel? She didn’t give birth and you forgot to tell me or something, did she?”
"No… But God, part of me wishes she's just pop Ollie out right now. She's moping all the time now. This morning she went to take a shower and when she got out she screamed at the top of her lungs that she was going to be pregnant forever… And when she's not moping she's sleeping… I'm worried about her, Kevin," Austin murmured.
Kevin was at a loss to explain the sudden shift in Cheyanne’s demeanor. She was usually so sunny and happy. So carefree and optimistic. The very thought that Cheyanne was depressed scared the Hell out of him. “Hasn’t Nick been calling her?”
"Yes… He calls all the time. She talks to him for maybe two minutes, but nothing like she used to. Her doctor said it's normal in the third trimester for some women to have these moods, but… This ain't normal for my Chey-Chey."
“Princess…” Kevin trailed in honest bewilderment, biting hard on his bottom lip. He honestly didn’t want to bring the subject up, but felt it was necessary. It seemed as if that were the only logical explanation. Unless she was hiding her pain from them all along. “…Is it because of Howie?”
"I have no clue… She won't even talk to me," Austin sighed.
“Do you want me to fly down?”
"And mess up the tour? No, Kevin, really--"
“That’s my daughter, Austin.”
"And you need to stay at work so you can provide for her, Kevin."
"If she gets any worse, I'll tell you and then you can come down, okay?"
“How are you going to know if she gets any worse if she won’t talk to you?”
"Damnit, Kevin, don't you think I can tell when our daughter's feeling worse or better?"
“I just don’t understand how she can be so broken…”
Austin sighed miserably. "The man she trusted ripped her heart out and stomped it flat, remember?"
“I remember… I just thought Nick…” Kevin answered, rubbing his face with a hard groan, hearing a door to one of the rooms open. Glancing up, he was surprised to find Howie actually emerging from his room in order to get the door for his room service. Kevin immediately narrowed his dark gaze toward Howie, wanting to trip him for the pain Cheyanne had.
"Maybe Nick only helps when he's right beside her? …Think you can fly him down?" Austin suggested softly. "Get his brother to fill in for him…"
“So, wait, what the Hell am I?”
“But not good enough to fly down?”
"If that's the only way we can get Nicky--"
"Are you flying down to see Austin?" Howie questioned softly.
Kevin glanced up in shock to even hear Howie’s voice, somewhat sidetracking from his conversation with Austin. He thought about reaching out and just slamming a hard fist into Howie’s gut, but he didn’t have the heart to do so. Something about Howie’s posture told Kevin to take it easy, especially as he stood uncomfortably with his container of food. “Why do you want to know, Howie?”
"Just wondering… If you are, do you think you could take the rest of the things I have for Cinn--the baby?"
“Princess, let me call you back,” Kevin murmured softly to his fiancée.
"Okay… If you kill him, be sure and bury him with plenty of lye... I love you."
“I love you, too,” Kevin promised with a gentle kiss against the speaker of the phone. Hopping off the recliner, he noticed that Howie had already retreated into his room. But, Kevin wouldn’t let him get away that easily. Not a single person within the group had made a point to speak with Howie. Since he had broken Cheyanne’s heart, everyone had put him on the outs. But, Kevin needed to do something. So, without much consideration, Kevin barged into the room, noticing Howie had already abandoned the food without any thought to eating it. “You still have stuff for La-La?”
"It's some stuff from Momma…"
“Have you told your mother that you broke things off with Angel?”
"…No…" Howie flopped down on the bed, pulling a pillow over his head as though to shut out Kevin's voice. "I haven't told her…"
“And why is that?” Kevin continued to question, seating himself on the edge of the bed, yanking the pillow from Howie’s face. “Don’t be such a child. It was your decision, Howie.”
"I never meant to break it off with her…"
Kevin stared at Howie with sheer disbelief, swallowing the urge to berate Howie for being an idiot. It just seemed ridiculous that Howie could think that the way he treated Cheyanne wouldn’t end in a separation. “…Then what the Hell did you think would happen when you told her you didn’t love her? When you lied to her about not visiting during your break? When you wouldn’t return her phone calls? When you wouldn’t call her?”
"I never told her I didn't love her…"
“And you never told her that you loved her either, huh?”
"I didn't know I had to say it a million times a day."
“Once a day probably would have sufficed.”
"I really fucked up, didn't I, Kevin? She's gone…"
“You are beyond fucking up at this point, D,” Kevin promised him with a sharp frown, leaning forward to rest his elbows on his knees. “…What the Hell were you thinking?”
"I have no clue what I was thinking," Howie groaned, yanking the pillow back over his head. "And now there's nothing I can do about it. Just go, Kevin…"
“You know, you’re not the only one hurting in this situation,” Kevin growled, reaching to throw the pillow across the room. “My Angel is suffering like no other. She won’t talk to Austin. She just lays in bed all day, sleeping. And, if she’s not sleeping, she’s crying. She’s absolutely miserable. She won’t even talk to Nick on the phone--”
"Well if I thought it'd make a difference, I'd call her. But your girlfriend, or whatever she is these days, wouldn't let me talk to Chey for any reason at all. Now if you don't mind, I have some food to eat…"
“You aren’t even going to touch that food--”
“Where’s the stuff you bought for La-La?”
"It's in my pull along--I told you, Momma got it for her."
“Well, then I guess you better tell your mother to stop buying things for La-La, since you don’t want her as a daughter anymore, much less Angel for a wife,” Kevin answered, retrieving the purple bag of gifts where Howie had stored them.
"I never said--"
“Exactly, Howie, you never said anything,” Kevin emphasized, moving toward the door so he could call back Austin and hopefully speak to Cheyanne for a few moments.
Shuffling into the living room, Austin glared at the ringing telephone, half-tempted to let the machine get it. Immediately her decision changed, thinking perhaps it was Kevin calling at the ungodly hour of seven in the morning to say he loved her. Smiling slightly, she snatched the phone off its base without a glance at the caller id. "Pretty Boy?"
"Who the Hell--"
“What the Hell are you doing calling at seven in the morning? Someone better have died…”
"I wanted to talk to Cheyanne…"
“At seven in the morning?”
"Do you realize what time Scooper woke me up begging to go see his Angel? You're lucky I sidetracked him this long."
“See his Angel? …You’re not on your way here are you… Because Chey-Chey’s not conscious,” Austin grumbled, shuffling back the hallway toward Cheyanne’s bedroom. Easing open the door, she smiled at the sight of seeing Cheyanne curled amongst the covers and pillows, holding Moth close for snuggles. She looked somewhat peaceful, though Austin did her best to ignore the paleness of Cheyanne’s skin and the small frown frozen on her lips. She hated that Cheyanne was getting worse.
"No… We're not on our way--"
"I WANT MY ANGEL, DADDY! HER NO CALL ME NO MORE!" Baylee shrieked in the background.
"Maybe I can ship him down on the UPS truck?" Brian suggested with a chuckle.
Austin cringed, “How long has he been like that?”
"For a day or two now… He won't have anything to do with anybody but Nick and me…"
“Chey-Chey doesn’t mean to not call him, y’know that right?”
"I know… But I think if Bay just knows she's okay he'll calm down… So, can I? Please? Talk to her?"
“Okay,” Austin complied as she heard Baylee shrieking loudly in the background. Stifling a yawn, Austin lifted the covers to crawl inside. She curled close to Cheyanne’s back, slowly rubbing it in hopes to rouse the younger woman slowly. She had been so tired lately. “Chey-Chey? Sweetheart?”
“Austi?” Cheyanne mumbled sleepily, shifting uncomfortably in the bed as Moth whined at the disruption.
"It's Brian… He's wants to talk to you…" Austin held the phone out, cringing when Baylee released an ear-piercing shriek, followed by the sound of a door slamming shut.
“What’s wrong with Darlin’?” Cheyanne questioned, attempting to sit up before grimacing at the sharp pains invading her abdomen.
Austin came close to telling Cheyanne that Baylee was nothing but a spoiled brat, but refrained when she heard Brian's pained sigh. "Just talk to Brian… I think Bay's missing you," she murmured, handing the phone over.
“Okay…” Cheyanne whispered as Moth slid off her lap in order to snuggle between Austin and Cheyanne. Though, he was momentarily squished when Austin snuggled close to Cheyanne, resting her head against the growing Olivia, smiling at the soft squirms. Though, Cheyanne didn’t appreciate the squirms because they only added more pain. She didn’t even want to speak to Brian, much less anyone, on the phone, but Baylee sounded miserable. So, she pushed her misery aside, easing the phone to her ear with a stifled yawn. “Hello?”
"She didn't wake you up to talk to me, did she?" Brian questioned immediately.
“Are you seriously asking that?” Cheyanne returned softly, not wanting to disturb Austin, who had instantly drifted back into a comfortable sleep.
"Sorry… How are you? And don't lie…"
“I’m fine… I’ve never seen seven in the morning since clinicals in college…”
"Actually, it's after seven--"
"Alright, apparently it's too early for my stupid wisecracks… Why haven't you been talking to Nick?"
Cheyanne sighed softly with obvious pain, “We can go back to your stupid wisecracks…”
"Chey, he's worried. He thinks he's done something or said something wrong.”
“He hasn’t done anything wrong… I just don’t feel good--”
"Have you told him that? …No, you haven't, because you don't want him to worry, right?"
“Right,” Cheyanne agreed as she leaned back on her pillows, biting hard on her bottom lip as a cramp evaded her stomach, curling around to her back. The pain seemed to get worse as the pregnancy continued, though, she assumed that’s because the placenta was still tearing. But Olivia wasn’t under any current stress, so Cheyanne refused an early cesarean section. “He has to concentrate on your guys’ tour… Not fat, always-pregnant Cheyanne.”
"Hey… He loves you, okay? And when he's not talking to you every five minutes like before, he worries. He's… He's fragile, Chey. A lot of bad stuff has happened to him in the past, and… Well, he's my best friend."
“I know that he’s your best friend, Brian,” Cheyanne whispered softly, feeling heavy tears gathering in her dark sapphire eyes once more. She feebly attempted to wipe them away before they spilled, but it was useless. She knew she had been short with Nick, just like Howie had been short with her. It wasn’t fair. “I’m just so tired and I didn’t want him to think… I’m sorry, Brian… I’m really, really sorry… I can’t ever to anything right…”
"No, sweetie, don't think that… But Nick… He's--he's dumb as a brick, to be honest. Just tell him, okay? Tell him you're tired and want to sleep, and he'll understand. He has to be told things, he can't figure it out on his own…"
“…Is he okay?”
"He's just worried about you, Chey… And he thinks he's done something wrong. I think he's a lot like you in that respect, you know?"
“I know… I’ll call him later… Because there’s no way he’s gonna be awake at seven in the morning… Y’know, in that respect, he’s like a lot of normal people?”
Brian chuckled softly. "Sorry… I had an early phone call and then when I got off the phone with--well, needless to say it woke up Bay…"
“How is Vivian?” Cheyanne questioned with an honest interest as Moth crawled onto her rounded belly to curl up. She reached to affectionately scratch him behind the ears, waiting for Brian’s answer. She had been one of the first people that Brian had confided in about his pending separation and the new interest in his life. She wasn’t sure why she was the one he sought, but welcomed the trust. To know he had loathed her with such veracity at the beginning to now seek her out for advice was an overwhelming booster in her pride.
"She's fine… I miss her, y'know? But she has her job and everything, and can't just drop everything 'cause I'm feeling lonely. I'm hoping to go see her on the next break…"
“That’d be a nice treat for both of you… Does Darlin’ approve?”
"He hasn't met her yet… He's talked to her on the phone, but he doesn't ask about her or anything. I think there's only room in his life for one special lady."
“I didn’t think Darlin’ was that close to his mother…”
"You're hilarious, Chey… You know I'm talking about you."
Cheyanne was silent for several moments. “…No, I didn’t…”
"He thinks the sun shines out of your--"
“Don’t even think about finishing that sentence,” Cheyanne interrupted. “Or I won’t ask you to fly Darlin’ out on your next break before going to Snookum’s house…”
"So if I don't finish the sentence, you will ask? Do you think you can handle that little brat?"
“Darlin’ ain’t ever a brat with me,” Cheyanne drawled softly as Moth licked her hand with a pleasant sigh. She knew Austin would probably have a fit about her babysitting, but Brian deserved some alone time with Vivian. After the hardships he had been through, Cheyanne could wallow away from her depression to spend a few days with Baylee. She missed him.
"Yeah, rub it in, why don't you?" Brian laughed. "But you'll have Nick there, too, and he can give you a hand… And I'm sure that Kevin and Austin won't mind having him around…"
“I’ll have Nicky?”
"Do you honestly think he'll stay away from you for three days while he's on break?"
“He didn’t say anything about coming…”
"He will. Trust--"
"IS DAT MY ANGEL, DADDY?! I WANTTA TALK TO MY ANGEL!"
“You can go start on his breakfast if you want? Because he’ll just lay on the bed and talk to me…” Cheyanne suggested as she heard the loud whines somewhat beneath the phone in the background, Baylee obviously trying to reach the phone before gaining permission.
"Alright… I'll talk to you soon, okay sweetie? Tell Austin to give Olivia tummy kiss for--"
There was a distinct rustling, a muffled thud. "MY ANGEL!" Baylee cried in excitement.
“Hey Darlin’,” Cheyanne cooed softly, smiling slightly at the enthusiasm Baylee presented. “…I hear you’re misbehaving for your Daddy and Nicky…”
"I miss you," Baylee whined. "I wantta see you…"
“I want to see you, too, but I’m not misbehaving,” Cheyanne countered with a gentle chide. “Y’know, I almost had to beg your Daddy to let you come down here for a few days. And if you misbehave again, he’s not going to let me get you…”
"I'll be good boy," Baylee promised. "I'll even eat my carrots!"
“I hope so, ‘cause I want you to come visit me.”
"My Angel? You still love Nicky?"
“Of course I still love my Nicky… Why, Darlin’?”
"'Cause him so sad… Him keeps playin' dat melting song…"
“I didn’t mean to make him so sad… I’ve just been sleepy… The baby keeps waking me up,” Cheyanne attempted to explain with a soft sigh, scratching beneath Moth’s chin. “…Want to do me a favor?”
"Anyfing for you, My Angel!"
“Take the phone and go jump on Nicky for me… Tell him that I love him?”
"Otay…" There was a thump of Baylee jumping off the bed, followed by hurried footsteps across carpeted floors. Grunts as he struggled to open the door, more footsteps. "Damnit," he muttered under his breath, then a high-pitched squeal. "NICKY! MY ANGEL! HER LOVES YOU!"
“Even a deaf person could have got that message…” Cheyanne murmured in disbelief, covering a hand against her mouth to muffle her own private giggles.
"NICKY! WAKE UP!"
"WHAT?!" Nick roared suddenly. "What are you doing in here?!"
"MY ANGEL! HER LOVES YOU!" Baylee cried triumphantly.
Cheyanne glanced briefly toward her clock, noting it was a bit past eight in the morning as Baylee continued to repeat the message with loud giggles. She knew Nick would probably be furious with her, but this was the most alert she had been all week. This was probably the only chance she’d be able to talk to him without feeling as if she wanted to cry. And, unfortunately, Baylee was the only one who could deliver the message.
"Her loves you, Nicky," Baylee continued in his singsong voice.
"Can I talk to her?" Nick questioned softly. "Please?"
"But… Otay," Baylee groaned. "My Angel? You talk to Nicky while I go potty?"
“Thank you, Darlin’,” Cheyanne whispered softly as there was a shift of the phone and she waited till she heard a hard yawn. “My Nicky?”
"Hey, Sweetheart," Nick murmured, and though they were miles apart, Cheyanne could tell he was smiling.
“Hey, my Nicky,” Cheyanne returned again. “When did you plan on waking up today?”
"Um… Not this early… But beside having my twins squashed by a two-year old, this was a nice way to wake up…"
“I didn’t request for a bounce on the boys,” Cheyanne assured him, “But I can let you go back to bed if you like?”
"Are you shitting me? I can sleep anytime… I'd much rather talk to you, Sweetheart…"
“Brian called me and told me that you were worrying…”
"I was… I am… I miss you…"
“I miss you too, Nicky, and I’m sorry that I’ve been so short--”
"Don't be. Did I make you mad? Have I been calling too much?" he murmured.
“No, Nicky. God no…” Cheyanne breathed softly, squeezing her eyes shut to block the hurt in his voice. “I love you calling, honestly. I look forward to hearing your voice… To just talking to you… But, I’ve been so tired and… When you call, Austi has to wake me up and… I should have told you… I’m sorry, honestly.”
"So it's okay if I keep calling? And… I'll tell Austin that if you're asleep to not wake you up, okay? Then she can tell you when you wake up, and if you feel like talking to me, call me back… How's that sound?"
“It sounds like a good plan,” Cheyanne promised, hoping he could hear her smile.
"I love you, Sweetheart."
“I love you, too. Very much. You know that, don’t you?”
"Yes, I do… You don't mind that I'm coming next week, do you?"
“Do you mind bringing Darlin’ with you?”
"Aw, man… Do I gotta?" Nick whined.
“Brian wants to see Vivian…”
"He just saw her, though!"
“Why are you so against my Darlin’?”
"I'm not against Bay… At all…"
“Then why not bring him?”
"Because… Um… Okay, I'll bring him… He'll make you happy, I can deal."
“You can admit the truth to me, Nicky,” Cheyanne actually giggled softly. “…But you make me happy, too.”
"The truth? I'm jealous of that little--"
"GIMME MY ANGEL BACK!"
“You don’t have to be jealous of him… But you still have to bring him if you want to come next weekend… Austi said something about Kevvy coming and there’s a county fair in town… She won’t let me take Darlin’, but I’m sure she will?”
"I do not want to spend an entire afternoon of Baylee whining for his Angel," Austin grumbled sleepily, shifting closer as she pulled the blanket over her head. "But I will if I have to…"
"Sounds like a plan to me… I love you, Sweetheart…
“I love you too, my Nicky. Very much and always.”
"I'll call you later," he murmured. "I love you…"