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Evidently I passed out cold, because when I opened my eyes, I was on the floor and looking up at everyone. They were all crowded over me, mumbling back and forth. Some seemed concerned about me, while others still seemed to be upset over me getting…oh my God…now I remember why I passed out.

How…in the hell…am I going to raise Baylee?! I can’t raise Baylee! What was Brian thinking?! He had to have been on a contact buzz from being too close to AJ…or something! This wasn’t possible. There was no way I could do this. They had to give Baylee to someone else. Someone more responsible. Someone in the family.

I would just have to suck it up and tell them I refuse the job. Nothing to it. I’d just stand up…right now…as soon as my body would listen to the signals being sent from my brain. Ok…ok…deep breath…

“I’m…I…I mean I…see I…um…” Now I just gotta say it. I’m not going to do this. I can’t. Come on mouth…say the words. “I’ll take…good care…of him.” Aw come on! What, the hell, was that?! Those weren’t the right words. Ok…deep breaths and try again…come on mouth…brain…you both can do this…

“Mr. Littrell felt very sure that you would, Mr. Carter. He was quite clear about his wishes, regarding Baylee and the estate. I assure you that this is exactly what Mr. and Mrs. Littrell wanted. When he was informing me of the changes, to the will…his wife was happily in agreement.” Whoa. Leighanne agreed?! Now that was a bit of a shock, to me. I was surprised enough that Brain trusted me with the care of his son…but for her to agree…happily? Wow.

“Uh…ok…” Everyone else was starting to file out, now, mumbling under their breath, as I started to get back on my feet. I still wasn’t feeling so hot and I really didn’t know how I was going to handle this. My mouth and brain were obviously not going to work together enough for me to decline this…so I guess I would just have to suck it up and follow through.

After making an appointment, for the following morning, with the lawyer, I walked out into the lobby. There, in front of me, stood Baylee and somehow, I looked at him a little differently. He wasn’t exactly just my little buddy anymore; he was a young life that I was responsible for. At that moment, things started to sink in, just a little, about what was in store for us…or, at least I thought I had a clue. Only time would reveal, just, how much things would change.

“I’m gonna live with you, Nick?” In his voice, there was just a tint of happiness that I could hear. He probably thought everything was going to be all fun and games…like a permanent sleepover.

“Uh…yeah…it looks like it, buddy. But for now…we’re just going back to the hotel, ok?” Licking my lips, nervously, I took the bag that his aunt was holding out. “I’ll make sure you get a nice big bed…the bounciest one they have, ok?”

“Yay!” Baylee always loved to jump and bounce on the bed…even if his parents wouldn’t usually let him. For tonight…I was willing to let just about anything slide…there would be no rules. Who am I kidding? There were never any rules when he was with me. Ok, maybe that’s not entirely true…it’s not like I let the kid stick things into electrical sockets or anything, like that.

“Come on, little man…it’s getting late. We need to get you some dinner and a bath before bed.” I took his hand and let him out to the car, getting him safely buckled in. I wasn’t ready to be a father…and suddenly I was basically just that…to a nine year old.

“Can we have McDonald’s for dinner, Nick? Please? Pretty please?” Glancing at him, in the rearview mirror, I backed out of the parking spot before making my way out onto the highway. His eyes were pleading and it was hard to deny those sweet blues of my best little buddy.

“You know what, Baylee? Since it’s getting late…we’ll have McDonald’s tonight. But tomorrow…we’re gonna eat something more healthy ok? You need good food to help you grow big and strong.”

“I know, Nick…I know…lots of vegetables.” Covering my mouth, I had to hide my grin because the look of disgust, on his face, was a great mix of cute and downright funny. With a roll of his eyes, he turned to look out the window, as I headed toward the closest McDonald’s.

Before I knew it, though, we had eaten and Baylee had taken his bath. I guess I was still in that auto robot like mode. I couldn’t focus on much of anything, so I broke a second ‘Littrell rule’ by letting him watch cartoons while he ate, since we had taken dinner back to the hotel room. I just didn’t feel like being out in public, you know? Anyways…he ate fairly well, but I couldn’t take much more than a bite or two.

Then, it was off to bed for the little man. He knelt by his bed, like usual, and prayed his precious heart out…asking for his parents to watch over him and for everything to be ok. I gave him a long lasting, tight hug before he crawled in under his covers. At that moment, it hadn’t sunk in yet, that this was going to become my life.

“You sleep good, buddy. And have good dreams, ok?” Pulling the covers up under his chin and tucking him in, I gave him a quick kiss on the forehead. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad. I mean…how hard can it be, to raise a kid?

“Night, night, Nick. I love you lots.”

“Aw. I love you, too, buddy. Night, night.” With a flip of the light switch and the pull of his door, I was out in the main part of our suite. Who was I kidding? This wasn’t going to be easy! I could wish and hope for it to be a smooth ride, but it wasn’t likely. Kids act up…push your buttons…whine…beg…and then they become teens. Oh Lord, please help me through this.

Once again, I found myself looking up, at the ceiling. As I slid down the wall, to sit on the floor, I began to pray. I needed strength…a lot of it! I had never raised a child before and I had no clue how to do it. To be quite honest…I was scared…terrified, even.

“Please….please just help us through this. I can’t do this alone. I know I can’t. I don’t know how to raise Baylee! What if I screw up?” My eyes were closed now and I was fighting back the tears that were threatening to fall. I hated feeling so…weak…and helpless. Why can’t I just get back control of my life? Would I ever regain control? Or was it out of my hands forever?

Yet again, I was at the mercy of time…because, as I said before, only time would tell if everything would work out. I would have to just wait and keep praying that the pieces fell into place. Maybe tomorrow’s meeting will help give me some peace, of mind. At this point, I wasn’t sure of anything and I was left with…with faith. But did I have enough faith, to get us through this? Through this crazy, messed up life? Well…whatever faith I did have, would just have to be enough. I would make it be enough. I had to. For Baylee’s sake.