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Instinctive Unease

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The full group doesn’t meet up again for four months, gathering together in front of the house that had nearly torn them apart. It’s broad daylight, the September cold not yet arrived as the weatherman had predicted, and a light breeze is ruffling Kimberly’s hair as she looks at the spot where she’d seen three of her ancestors finally crossover. They’d deserved it after all the hell they’d gone through while stuck in this house.

Steve passes out the roses he’d bought earlier, one for each person present that also represents all the people they’ve lost along the way and the eminent destruction of the family curse. He pauses in front of Nick, fingers brushing against the blond man’s as though the contact is the only thing keeping him sane.

“It’s really over, isn’t it,” Kimberly asks no one in particular.

“It really is,” Cathy confirms, smiling when she spots Nicky’s hand coming up to rest on the small bump of Kimberly’s belly. At three months pregnant, she can still get around just fine even if her husband and son don’t like the thought of her moving too much. It seems Nicky’s inherited his father’s mile-wide protective streak after all. “Do you know what you’re having yet?”

“No, but we’re hoping for a little girl.” She smiles as well, resting her hand over Nicky’s and giving it a squeeze. He grins in return, nuzzling his cheek against her stomach before launching himself up into Emery’s arms.

A little girl, Kimberly knows already. Named for a great-great-grandmother she’ll never meet that saved her mommy’s life.

“We’ve decided to call it Bess until we go have the ultrasound,” Emery adds as though sensing Kimberly’s line of thoughts. “Freddy if it’s a little boy.” The appointment is later that day, scheduled as a way to escape the house in case either of them feel threatened.

“Those are wonderful names,” Cathy says, blue eyes bright. She’s happy again, her smile genuine and not strained by fear. Her attention turns to the teenager on her right, watching as Annie twirls the rose around between her fingers. “Annie, do you know what roses mean?”

“Roses mean remember,” Annie says with a proud little smile. She’s doing better now that she’s used to them all, coming over to the apartment every other Saturday to spend time with Nicky.

“That’s exactly right.”

“Thirty more minutes,” Steve tells them with a relived smile of his own. “Then we can all go get waffles until I find out if I’m having a little goddaughter in six months.” He makes a face and shakes his head a little as his thoughts seem to shift from bright side to dark side. “Unless it’s as impatient as Nicky, then we’re looking at five months while in the middle of the biggest traffic jam in Seattle history.”

“We’re not repeating that,” Emery says. “If that happens, I’ll strangle you with a seatbelt.” But he’s smiling and that softens his words, Steve smiling back in answer. They’re getting along better, which kind of lends some truth to that saying about near-death situations bringing people closer together. And if that isn’t a saying, then it totally should be.

Annie walking to the house is what snaps Kimberly back out of her own mind, Cathy making to go after her only to be stopped by Emery’s hand on her arm.

“Don’t worry, I got her.”

“Yeah, they’re best buddies now that a house isn’t trying to eat us,” Steve quips. Emery pays him no mind, kneeling down next to Annie and watching as she sets her rose down on the dried leaves.

“Who’s that one for?” She doesn’t say anything, but he isn’t expecting her to and just smiles broader. The others join them, setting their flowers down with the stems crisscrossing over each other.

“Hey, set this one down so Kimmy doesn’t have to bend over.” She rolls her eyes as the rose is snatched out of her hand but doesn’t bother to argue. She’d tried it all of her last pregnancy and it worked about as well as a chocolate tea kettle. Steve winks at her, then he’s tugging playfully on a strand of Annie’s dark hair.

“Can you still reach her with your mind,” Cathy wonders.

“No, but we communicate pretty well now. Don’t we, Annie?” She grins and jumps up to hug him, giggling quietly as he spins on his heal.

Kimberly’s phone chimes, the alarm making her nerves spike as it really hits her what all’s happening today. Not only will the house be torn down for good, she’s finding out what her baby is for certain.

“You ready for this, Kimmy?”

“Beyond ready,” she nods, leading the way back to the cars. She and Emery had come in their own car, a nice little minivan that’s perfect for car seats, while the others had all arrived in Steve’s truck. The Watermans leave first with Steve following behind, the cars going separate ways once they reach the main section of the city.

It’s an hour later, when Steve’s working on his fourth stack of waffles and the others have all called it quits, when a text message comes through. He knows what it is without having to look at his phone, what the message will be and how it’ll be phrased for the simple reason of having a direct line to his cousin’s thoughts still.

Beside him, Nick shifts in the booth and digs the phone out himself with no regard for the syrup that drips onto his shirtsleeve after bumping Steve’s fork. He’s a man on a mission since, as he’s frequently reminding anyone who will listen—his mother was fine, his best friend from high school was a bit of a stretch, but Nick even told the boy that bagged up their groceries—that it’s his godchild as well.

And, as he grins and brandishes the phone proudly for everyone at their table to see the grainy picture of an ultrasound and the caption beneath it, Steve finds that he’s been right all along.

Say hello to little Beatrice!