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  • Inside by Noelle Adams #epilogue

    Introduction

    This is the end of Inside, the serial novel I've been writing. If you need to catch up, you can use the links to the earlier chapters below.
    I am going to publish this book as an individual title eventually, but it won't be any time soon. I need to let it rest for a while before I revise it, and I don't want to publish this one until I can publish Outside (Chance and Dax's book) a month or so later. So it will be the fall at the earliest, and maybe even later than that.


    I'm going to be taking down the links to the previous chapters next Saturday, so if you are planning to read through these links, make sure you do it in the next week.
    Many thanks to those of you who have encouraged me along the way as I've written this! I really appreciate you!

    Need to catch up?

    You can catch up on the earlier chapters through the links below.

    Epilogue

    It was five o’clock on a Friday. Time for me to turn off my computer, get up from my desk, and go home.
    I normally loved going home. I loved the townhouse—the same one I grew up in—and I loved Will, who’d been living with me for almost two years now. I’d started working at this small college library six months ago, and I enjoyed my job most of the time. But I sometimes had to work on the weekends, since the library was open seven days a week.
    Today was a good Friday, however, because I didn’t have to be back at work until Monday.
    It was time for me to get up. Drive home. Make something for dinner and have a quiet evening with Will.
    Instead, I was just sitting in my chair, as if an unseen weight was holding me in place.
    I knew what it was.
    My rational mind knew it was stupid to feel this way, but I was nervous about what I had to do when I got home. I’d imagined the conversation over and over again in my head, visualizing Will’s face, fine tuning how I’d say it, playing out all kinds of endings.
    It wasn’t anything bad, but I’d known now for more than a week, and I’d only told Will about it inside my mind. Not in real life.
    Tonight, I was resolved to tell him in real life.
    My stomach was twisting with anxiety. Maybe some excitement too, but mostly anxiety.
    I didn’t even know why.
    At 5:06, I finally made myself get up, and I was walking to my car when my phone rang.
    It might be Will. He sometimes called when he was on his way home. Or if he was working late. I dug my phone out of my purse to discover that it wasn’t Will after all.
    It was Chance.
    “Hey,” I said, smiling as I answered. “I was going to call you later.”
    “Well, I called you instead. I wanted to see if you’d told him yet.”
    “No, I haven’t told him! I’m just leaving work now. I’ll tell him tonight.”
    “You promise?” Chance’s voice was light, fond, familiar.
    “I promise.”
    “I don’t know what you’re so scared about. You know he’s going to be happy, right?”
    “Right.”
    “You don’t sound convinced.”
    “I am convinced. I don’t know why I’m nervous. It just isn’t what we planned and… You know how hard it was for him to believe we were… we were real. I don’t know. I keep imagining all these scenarios.”
    “Well, stop imagining. You’ve got to get out of your head about this. Just tell him. Then you can stop imagining.”
    “I know.” I swallowed and made myself smile. “Thanks for the pep talk.”
    “That’s what I’m here for.” There was a pause before Chance added, “Sunday is Dad’s birthday.”
    “I know. I’m planning to visit his grave. You can come too, right?”
    “Yeah. I’ll be there.” She paused again. “He’d be happy too.”
    My eyes burned as I stood next to my car, my keys in my hand. I swallowed hard over an ache in my throat. “Yeah.”
    “You’re not crying or anything, are you?”
    I gave a huff of amusement. “No. Of course not.”
    “Good. Call me later. If you don’t call, I’ll be calling you.”
    “I know. I’ll call. Talk to you then.”
    ***
    I drove home, still living mostly inside my head, visualizing how the conversation tonight with Will might go, how I might say what I needed to say, how he would react.
    When I arrived, I discovered that Will wasn’t home yet, so I changed clothes and then went into the kitchen to see what there was for dinner. Usually whichever of us got home first would get dinner started—or at least make a plan for what we would eat.
    My stomach wasn’t entirely settled, so I found leftover chicken from last night and pulled it out with some vegetables and chicken stock. Soup would be good. We had a loaf of sour dough bread from the bakery down the block that we could eat with it.
    I chopped vegetables and put them in the pot. Then I added the chicken stock and shredded up the leftover chicken. I tasted it and decided it was pretty good, so I left it to simmer.
    I was about to call Will to find out when he was coming home when my phone chirped with a text. It was Will.
    On way.
    I smiled and shook my head. His text messages were always like that. Curt and to the point.
    I sliced some of the bread and stirred the soup, but then I didn’t have anything left to do until Will got home. Still feeling nervous and restless, I wandered around aimlessly until I ended up in my dad’s old study.
    It was still an office, mostly used by me. The décor was all different now than when it had been my dad’s, but I could still occasionally catch of whiff of a scent in the room that reminded me of him. I went over to look at the framed picture of the birds—the sparrow and the blue jay.
    I lifted my hand to gently stroke the line of the sparrow’s head.
    He’d been dead for years now, but I still missed him. I probably always would.
    I went to sit down on the leather loveseat, intending to check email on my phone.
    I never pulled my email up though.
    I just sat. Thought. Visualized. Worried.
    I was still sitting there, lost in my thoughts, when I was aware of someone else in the room.
    Will.
    He came in wearing a dress shirt and a pair of trousers, since he tried to dress semi-professionally when he met with a new client, as he had today.  His business with Dax was finally starting to take off. He was frowning over his beard. “There you are. I was calling for you.”
    “You were?” I blinked, trying to recall if I’d heard any signs of his presence. “I didn’t hear you.”
    “What are you doing in here?”
    “Sitting.”
    “I can see that.” He came over to the loveseat, scooted me over a bit, and then sat down beside me. “What’s going on?”
    “Nothing.”
    “Then why are you all in your head?”
    “I’m not—” I broke off the objection since it would be a lie.
    was all in my head.
    And I knew exactly why.
    I sighed and leaned against his big body. He put his arms around me and nuzzled my hair. “What’s going on, sweetheart?”
    “It’s… nothing bad.”
    “Then why are you stewing like this. You’ve been quiet and distracted all week. I know you, remember? I know it means something is wrong.”
    “I know. It’s not really that something is wrong, but I have been... I’m sorry. I need to tell you something. I don’t even know why I’m…”
    “Hey.” Will tilted his head down to meet my eyes. “I’m right here. This is me. You don’t have to know why. Just tell me.”
     I swallowed and opened my mouth. No sound came out.
    So I tried it again.
    Still no comprehensible word.
    “Shit, sweetheart, you’re scaring me. Is it bad?”
    “No! It’s not bad. It’s good. At least, I think it’s good. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know how it happened. I don’t… I didn’t plan it. I mean, it wasn’t in our plans, so I guess that’s why I’m nervous about it. I shouldn’t be. I just kept stalling because I didn’t know how to tell you. I mean, I guess the birth control didn’t work like it was supposed to. It happens sometimes, I guess. But it’s a good thing. It should be a good thing. It’s just not what we were planning, and we’re not even married yet. Of course, I’m not saying we need to be married. It’s just…” I trailed off as I realized how much I was babbling, how ridiculous I sounded.
    All of what had been inside me for the last week spilling over into speech at last.
    Will was staring at me, frozen and stunned and silent.
    I gulped. “Anyway. I’m pregnant. If you hadn’t yet figured that out from my ramblings.”
    Will opened his mouth, but no words came out, the same way they hadn’t with me earlier.
    I waited, but when he still didn’t say anything, I felt another wave of that anxiety that had been plaguing me for days. “Is it okay? I know it wasn’t in our plans, but… but our baby.”
    “Our… baby.” Will’s eyes were the color of steel as they moved from my face to my belly and then back.
    “Are you okay?”
    “Okay? Okay?” His voice was hoarse, and the second word was a lot louder than the first. “Oh my God, sweetheart.” He reached out and pulled me into a hug so tight it was almost painful. “Am I okay?”
    My heart was beating wildly, but it was with excitement now more than fear. I could feel something in his body.
    Something good.
    “So, are you?” I prompted, just to be sure I was reading him correctly.
    He gave a helpless laugh that was just on the edge of a sob. His face was buried in the crook of my neck. “Fuck. Fuck. Jesus Christ, Greer. I’m better than okay. I’m… happy.”
    I was smiling as I pulled away from him, and I could clearly see that his face was matching the feeling I’d heard in his voice and felt in his body.
    He was happy.
    So happy it was spilling out of him, his eyes, his mouth, his posture.
    He asked, “Did you really think I wouldn’t be happy?”
    “I… I kept telling myself you would be, but then something else kept worrying about it. I meant what I said before. I really don’t know why I couldn’t seem to tell you.”
    “I’ve lived with you for almost two years, and I’ve loved you a lot longer than that. I want everything with you, Greer. Surely you know that.”
    “So… kids?’
    His smile was warm, emotional, just slightly possessive. “Kids. Everything.”
    I collapsed against him, and we held each other for a few minutes. All the brewing tension from the last week had released in a wave of deep and bright relief.
    The conversation hadn’t gone anything like I’d replayed it in my mind.
    In my mind, I was always a lot more articulate.
    And, in real life, Will was a lot more nakedly happy than I’d dared to dream he would be.
    After a while, he finally said, “I never thought I would get this.”
    “I know you didn’t.”
    “I didn’t think I’d ever be allowed to even kiss you, much less make love to you, have a life with you, have a family with you.”
    I stroked his belly. He still had a scar from when he’d been shot two years ago.
    Shot doing everything he could to protect me.
    I knew exactly where it was beneath his clothes.
    I hadn’t forgotten it. I never would.
    “I know you didn’t think you could have it, but you can. I guess that might be part of why I was worried to tell you. It would make it… us… real in a way where there’s no going back. And I guess I wondered if it would… scare you. And I wasn’t sure if you’d truly accepted it yet. You’re not just allowed to have me. You’re stuck with me. Forever.”
    His smile was so tender my breath hitched. “I think I have accepted it.”
    “Really?”
    “Yeah.” He cleared his throat. “You’re going to think I’m just doing it because you’re pregnant, but I’m not. I’ve been wanting to do this for more than a month now.”
    “Do what?” Call me stupid, but I really didn’t know.
    He cleared his throat again. Then he reached into his pocket to pull out a little box.
    I gasped when I saw it.
    “This is my proof,” he said. “That I was already planning to do this. It’s not just because we’re having a baby.”
    “Oh my God, Will,” I breathed.
    He pulled a diamond ring out of the box. A pretty emerald-cut solitaire on a gold band. His eyes were almost sheepish, but as open as they’d ever been. “Greer, sweetheart, I love you, and I want to be allowed to love you for the rest of our lives. Will you let me?”
    I almost choked on the words as I said, “Yes! Yes, of course I’ll marry you!”
    He slipped the ring on my finger, and we both smiled down at it like dopes.
    “I thought you weren’t ready yet,” I said, cradling my ring finger with my other hand.
    “It took me a while to believe this could really last forever. You were right about that. But I was ready long before now. I’ve been carrying that ring around for weeks now, trying to find the right time to ask you.”
    I giggled and leaned over to kiss him. “So you don’t get to lecture me about waiting to tell you about the baby for just a week. You waited a lot longer than that.”
    “All right. I admit it. You’ll get no lecture from me. I’m far too happy to lecture anyone about anything anytime soon. All I want to do is sit and stew in my happiness.”
    I couldn’t stop giggling. “Stewing doesn’t sound very pleasant.”
    “It is pleasant. It’s perfect. It’s everything I want.”
    I kissed him again. “Me too. And all it took was two years and a life-threatening situation and four or five years before that.”
    “Sounds about right for us.” His arm had wrapped around me again, and I never wanted it anywhere else.
    “Sounds exactly right.”

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