Fourth of July . . . Small Town Style

{Psssst . . . if you want to read the prequel to this short story, go here. Happy Fourth of July!}

 

“Hey, Sam! Happy Fourth of July.” Mason slapped me on the back, grinning. “I’m kind of surprised to see you here. I figured you and Meghan would be celebrating at home today, what with . . . you know. Everything.”

He nodded in the general direction of my wife, and I followed his gaze. Meghan sat in a lawn chair next to my sister. Her beautiful red hair was up on top of her head in what she called a messy bun, keeping it off her neck in this oppressive Georgia heat. Her face was as gorgeous as it had been five years ago when I first saw her on the side of the highway just outside town, and her smile was serene.

It wasn’t until my eyes traveled lower that my stomach clenched with the same nerves that had been tormenting me for the better part of nine months. Meghan’s belly was enormous, so large that it dwarfed her frame. We’d known from the beginning that she was carrying twins, but sometimes lately, I wondered if it might be more than just two babies.

With great effort, I dragged my gaze back to Mason. “Oh, you mean the fact that my wife is currently eight days overdue? And that twins are almost never born this late? And that she looks like she’s balancing four watermelons on her middle? And she’s been contracting pretty steadily for the last two days? You think all of that would convince that stubborn woman that we should, I don’t know, go to the hospital? Or at least stick close to home?” I shook my head. “Nope. She said she wasn’t missing Independence Day, no matter what. She even joked with me that maybe the fireworks would scare the babies into being born. Can you believe her? Joking at a time like this?”

Mason threw back his head and howled with laughter. “Oh, Sam. Settle down, buddy. Meghan’s fine. Look at her over there, enjoying herself with all of our friends and families . . . she looks great. And just think: if she does go into labor, you’re closer to the hospital here than you would be out on the farm.” He elbowed my ribs. “Relax, man. Impending fatherhood is damn scary, but you can handle it. Look at me. I’m basically a pro by now.”

So saying, he swung down an arm to catch the little boy who was racing past, lifting his son into the air and tossing him high before he hugged him tight. A few feet away, his daughter Piper was sitting at the picnic table with my niece Bridget, both of them eating watermelon.

“You do make it look easy. You and Rilla, I mean,” I admitted. “But two at once? I’m already having nightmares about how we’re going to handle this.”

“Hey, if anyone should be freaking out here, it ought to be me.” He lowered his voice. “Rilla doesn’t want to make it public knowledge until after Meghan has the babies, but she’s cooking number three. We’re going to be officially outnumbered, come early next year.”

“That’s wonderful, Mason.” I gave him a punch in the shoulder. “I’m happy for you. I know Meghan will be, too. She—”

“Sam!” My sister’s voice interrupted me, calling my name with an urgency that had my heart jumping into my throat. “Get over here! Meghan’s water just broke.”

My feet were suddenly frozen, unable to move. I felt like I was standing in cement. “What?”

“You need to get her to the hospital!” Ali dashed over to me and shook my arm. “Come on, big brother. Get moving. You’re about to become a daddy. Times two.” She twisted, scanning the green expanse of grass where Burton’s Fourth of July celebration always took place. “Flynn! I need you to get the kids and take them over to where your mom is sitting. Tell everyone that Sam and I are driving Meghan to the hospital, and then come meet us.”

“I’ll call Meghan’s mom,” Rilla volunteered. “I know she’s been on standby to race up here the minute she hears things are getting underway.”

“Great.” Ali took my hand and dragged me toward my wife. “Sam, snap out of it. Meghan needs you.”

Those were the magic words. I stumbled to where my wife was still seated and leaned over her chair. When she lifted her eyes to meet mine, I expected to see panic. Pain. Fear.

But I should have known better. Instead, I saw joy, anticipation . . . and love. So much love.

Suddenly, I was back on that dark highway, looking down into the face of a young woman I was holding, whose eyes had just blinked open at me with wonder. I touched her cheek.

“Hey, babe. Ready to go meet our kiddos?”

Her smile was radiant. “So ready. So way over ready. I love you, Sam.”

I kissed her lips. “I love you, too. Now let’s get moving before you give birth here on the green.”

As I hauled my wife to her feet, applause and shouts of love and well-wishing rose around us. Our family, our friends and our town were sending us off in grand style, and this time, my heart swelled with gladness. I might be scared about becoming a dad, and I might be anxious about Meghan’s delivery, but I knew without a doubt that dozens of people loved me and had my back.

This was life–and love–in a small town.

Read more about life and love in Burton! There are nine Love in a Small Town books right now . . . and more on the way. Find them here.

Peace, love and romance~

You may also like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *