Authors: Kaitlyn Oruska
Tags: #adult contemporary romance
of a Girl
The Second Book in the Haven Series
by Kaitlyn Oruska
This novel is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, locations or incidents resembling real persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.
Though Hatteras Island, North Carolina is a real location, the town of Haven is not.
The Heart of a Girl – 1
Written, Edited and Published by Kaitlyn Oruska
All Rights Reserved
By Kevin and Amanda
All Rights Reserved
Cover Designed by Amy Queau
All Rights Reserved
Printed by Createspace
All Rights Reserved
Also available in Paperback
For my mom.
My parent, my friend and so much more.
June 15: Harper
The nurse that was watching over me while Thea was off the clock told me I needed to get my rest, but that was next to impossible with the new definition of my life laying just a few feet away from me.
I couldn’t stop staring at her. It was almost like she wasn’t real, like she was something I’d imagined that came to reality because I’d imagined her hard enough. She was a miniature version of her father, and I couldn’t get enough of her.
We could go home in two days, Thea told me earlier. My labor had been relatively easy, though that was news to me. My body still ached but I tried not to concentrate on it. I’d read somewhere that pain would go away on its own if you ignored it enough.
The room around me was silent except for Harper’s even breathing. I still couldn’t believe that was her name, although I’d been the one to pick it. Harper Grace Montgomery. She was a real person now, officially named. She’d go the rest of her life with that name, maybe changing the last one eventually.
I fiddled with my engagement ring, wondering when I’d get a chance to share that last name with her. I hoped I didn’t have to wait too long. Adam and I were bound together now, no matter what happened. Harper would keep us together and keep us strong.
The clock next to my bed told me there was just a few hours left of June 15
. And what a June 15
it had been. Exactly one year ago on this day at almost this exact moment, I’d kissed Adam for the first time. At that moment I’d never expected to kiss him again let alone be here now, lying in a bed in a birthing center, the product of our love sleeping a few feet away from me.
We’d moved so fast, leaving no time for regret. There were consequences, yes, but not regret. I loved Adam in that moment more than I’d loved almost anything. Harper was the one person that could overshadow that, and part of it was because she was so much a part of him.
The door opened, and Adam poked his head in. “Are you still awake?” He whispered.
“Yes,” I whispered back. He slid in through the door and closed it behind him.
“I had to sneak in here,” he explained. “I got back too late and one of the nurses tried to tell me I had to leave.”
I smiled. “You can, you know.”
“And spend the first night of our daughter’s life apart? I don’t think so.” He put a bag down next to the chair he’d sat in most of the day and stretched. “Make room?”
I moved over slightly, trying not to wince at the pain in the lower part of my body. I was proud of myself for doing this completely medication free, but I was feeling the consequences of that decision right now. Then again, I’d probably be feeling it anyway. My body had given life to another human being; no one could expect that to be completely painless.
Adam climbed into bed beside me and immediately kissed my cheek. “You did good,” he told me and I couldn’t help but laugh.
“Thanks,” I said, and he grinned down at me.
“I can’t believe she’s actually here.”
“Me neither,” I whispered, turning back in her direction. “Do you think she knows who we are?”
“I’m sure she knows who you are,” he said. “But she’ll probably have to be used to me a little more.”
“She looks exactly like you.”
“Yeah, Greg wasn’t too happy about that.”
“Adam!” I laughed and he grinned at me, kissing my forehead.
“He really thought the baby was going to end up not being mine,” he admitted. “I thought he was just being an ass, but he really believed it.”
“I would never do that.”
“You’d better not,” he teased gently, kissing me again. “I promise to never have babies with anyone but you, either.”
“Hm, thanks,” I smiled into his kiss. He pulled me closer and I felt our bodies relax into each other. We fit together so perfectly. I’d forgotten that during the months I was too pregnant to fit into anything perfectly.
We were made for each other. His hand reached down and took mine, fiddling with the engagement ring on my finger. He lifted it to his mouth and kissed it. “I can’t wait until you’re my wife,” he whispered. “Officially.”
“Bring a judge in here tomorrow and we’ll go for it,” I suggested. “I can’t promise I’ll be able to stand up without crying, but I can try.”
He laughed. “I’ll wait. You deserve more than a shotgun wedding in a birthing center.”
“All I deserve is you and that baby girl over there, and I have both.”
“That you do.” He kissed me again. “But let’s try to get some sleep. I’ve heard babies like to wake their parents up and she’s been sleeping since before I got here.”
“Very true,” I agreed, finally starting to feel sleepy again. “I love you so much.”
“I love you too. So much that I’m even going to get up with her tonight. So if you hear her cry, go back to sleep. I’ve got this.”
“Hm, thanks.” I kissed him one last time and relaxed into the pillow, feeling sleep tug at me for what felt like the tenth time that day.
Tomorrow was a new day, and the second day of my new life. I couldn’t remember ever looking forward to anything more.
Hope & Changes
The world around us was silent except for the quiet hum of air conditioners as Harper and I made our way through the familiar neighborhood. The sun was still making its descent into the ocean, painting the sky a plethora of bright pinks and oranges.
The heat wave wasn’t supposed to end until Sunday and the temperature was steady in the 80s, even with the absence of sunlight. I could feel sweat already gathering on my skin, making me feel as though I needed yet another shower, but I kept on. These nighttime walks relaxed Harper, even when the humidity remained so high and the air felt too heavy to breathe. I wondered if maybe she looked forward to these nights, to feel the fresh air on her face. If maybe this had already become part of her life.
I wondered so many things about her. She was both an extension of myself and her very own being all at once. When I was pregnant the reality of that hadn’t seemed significant. Back then she’d only been a part of me, my best part. It was like a piece of my heart had left my body and grown a new body all its own.
I crossed the street so that we would along the sidewalk bordering the beach. I peered over the top of the stroller, making sure she was still okay and still awake. She stared straight ahead, her big blue eyes taking in everything as if for the first time. Maybe for her, it was. Was memory created yet? Was there any way for Harper to remember that we’d done this same exact thing the night before, and plenty of nights before that? The only exception ever made was due to rain and even then I’d take her out sometimes, just to the front of our house and let her feel the moisture coming down on us. Some babies might fuss about that, but not Harper. She always looked at everything as if it were some sort of wonder. I longed to have that same outlook on life. I didn’t think I ever had before, even in the distant days when I was two months old.
I could see figures off in the distance, further down the beach and closer to the ocean than I’d been in forever. They were laughing and looked to be having the time of their lives. They were too far for me to try and recognize them. They could be locals, could even go to Haven High. Or they could just be tourists, enjoying the last few days of summer. There was no way of knowing and I was okay with that. I wasn’t going to let myself long for that carefree innocence I’d never really known. What I had was so much better.
“I think we should head home,” I said to Harper, and waited for a response even though I knew one wouldn’t come. While most mothers relished this stage of life for their infants, I found myself longing for the day when she was just a little older, when she could voice her own thoughts and feelings, communicate with me. I spent so much time lying awake at night envisioning Harper a few years from now, trying to imagine what her personality would be like. She looked much more like Adam than she did me; would the genetics even themselves out, give her more of my traits? I didn’t know if I would want that.
I turned at the next corner, leading us back towards home. I wasn’t ready to go back yet, but it was already Harper’s bedtime. I’d had my meeting with the school principal earlier in the day, informed him of my decision to homeschool instead of attending regular classes. I’d spent too much time agonizing over the decision and I’d finally realized it was the right choice. Adam wasn’t happy about it, and even less happy about the fact that I’d lead him to believe I hadn’t made the decision yet. As far as he knew, I was taking his concerns into consideration and leaning towards going back.
My love for Adam had only grown after Harper was born, but I still felt there was no way he could ever understand exactly what this felt like. He loved Harper, adored her, but she hadn’t grown inside his body. She had never been a physical part of him, not like she had been for me. He missed her when he was away from her, but it wasn’t a crippling kind of ache the way it was for me. He had the reassurance that when he was away, most of the time it was because he had to be. I didn’t have to leave her for seven hours a day to attend classes, not when I could do the same amount of work in the comfort of my own home, with Harper always just a few feet away.
He’d accused me of being too attached, but there was no way that could be true. Harper was my daughter. My existence was crucial due to her alone; there was no way I could ever be too anything when it came to her.
We’d argued briefly when he got home from work earlier, when I’d made my announcement and said there was no turning back. We’d argued about various things over the course of the summer, more so than we ever had before, and I think we were both just tired of it. Finally, he just nodded his head and said “whatever you think is best” and disappeared into the bedroom. I checked on him an hour later, and he was fast asleep. I fought the urge to wake him and instead fed myself and Harper and now here we were, finishing up our nightly walk.
I ditched the stroller at the front door, lifting Harper into my arms and placing a few kisses all over her face. She let out a soft giggle, grinning her big toothless grin at me. She loved receiving affection almost as much as I loved giving it to her.
“Pretty baby,” I whispered, holding her close to me as I unlocked the door. I pushed it open and a rush of cold air blasted out at us. I closed my eyes briefly, enjoying the sensation. I knew Adam must have woken up while we were gone. He was the only one who put the air conditioner so low.
“Hey,” he said, and I noticed he was in the living room now, sitting at the couch and flipping through channels. “Why didn’t you wake me up before you left?”
I closed and locked the door behind me before heading over to the couch, still holding Harper. I’d let her spend a little bit of time with Adam before changing her and putting her to bed. It was a little late for her, but maybe that just meant she’d sleep more soundly. At ten weeks, she hadn’t perfected the art of sleeping through the night quite yet.
I handed her over to him and she made a quiet protesting sound. I felt my heart ache briefly, but ignored it. Adam cradled her in his arms like he had when she was a newborn and smiled down at her.
“She’s starting to look a little bit more like you,” he commented.
“Not at all,” I argued, shaking my head. “She’s your spitting image. All she got from my side is her eyes.” Her violet eyes, the only thing she’d ever received from my mother. In a way, I was happy about that. From now on, that shade would mean Harper, the person I loved most in the world. Not the person that had hurt me the most.
“I see it,” he insisted. “In her smile, at least.”
“Oh, so toothless smiles remind you of me now?” I joked. He smiled faintly, never taking his eyes off Harper.
“I still can’t believe we created her,” he said. He’d said this for the past ten weeks whenever he held her and stared at her like this. I knew exactly what he meant. It felt so unfathomable, the fact that a new life could be created from two people who had barely even begun living theirs. But I was so glad it happened. Even if it meant giving up teenage normalcy, I wouldn’t trade a single second spent with Harper for anything in the world.
The love I felt for her was completely different than anything I’d experienced before. More intense, real, and certain. No matter what happened in life and what journey I embarked on next, I could always take comfort in knowing that Harper would always be my constant. Nothing was ever going to take her away from me, break us apart. She was always going to be mine, whether two months or two years or thirty.
“Do you want to tuck her in tonight?” I asked, hoping he would say no. I looked forward to our nightly ritual and the few times Adam took over I couldn’t help myself from standing at the nursery door and peering in. He glanced up at me.
“Nah, that’s okay. I’m going to try and find something to eat, anyway.”
I felt a little guilty, having not made him a proper dinner earlier. When we’d first moved in here, back when I was still pregnant, I cooked just about every night. But with a baby to take care of on top of a house to try and keep clean and organized, cooking elaborate dinners just stopped feeling important. Adam didn’t seem to mind, but I still felt like I was failing him on some level.
“There should be some leftover chicken in there. It should still be good, anyway.”
“I took that in for lunch today,” he said. “And I’m pretty sure it was about a day away from being bad.” He made a face and I decided not to ask.
“Just give me a minute to get her down and I’ll make you something,” I offered. He looked like he was going to protest, but just nodded instead. He kissed Harper on the forehead and handed her back to me.
Her nursery was my favorite room in the house. It hadn’t changed much since before she was born, except for the bookcase full of all the gifts she’d collected since she was born. I laid her down on the changing table, changed her diaper although it was still clean, and then covered her body with the lavender scented lotion that seemed to calm her. I ran a small comb over the little bit of dark hair she had then dressed her in one of her favorite pair of pajamas. Of course, I only assumed they were her favorite. They were purple and covered in unicorns, a gift from Erin Foster. I’d been surprised when she’d shown up about two weeks after Harper was born equipped with a gift and news that Scott stayed behind in Georgia with his grandparents and wouldn’t be back until school was about to begin.
I’d been sad even though I knew I probably wouldn’t be seeing much of him over the summer anyway. That part of my life suddenly felt like decades ago, another lifetime of its own. I could never again be that girl that Scott believed he loved and it seemed Erin was finally accepting that, too. She seemed lonely and it made me more compassionate towards her. Morgan was barely home during her summer vacation, Simon was always working, and both Scott and Nora were away. I’d invited her in for tea and she’d gotten to know Harper, and still stopped by occasionally. Maybe befriending the mother of your ex-boyfriend after having a baby with the boy you cheated on him with wasn’t considered likely in most cases, but somehow it seemed to work for us. I’d long since stopped expecting things to turn out the way they were ‘supposed’ to, anyway.
I kissed Harper a few more times before laying her down in her crib and stood by, whispering a story I vaguely remembered from my own childhood until her eyes began to droop and she fell asleep. “Goodnight baby girl,” I whispered, and turned the light off on my way out.
Adam was still on the couch, flipping through channels. I stood next to him for a second, not sure if I should sit down beside him or go into the kitchen and look for something to make. I’d only eaten a salad earlier and my stomach was turning with what I assumed was hunger. Maybe a little bit of nervousness.
“Are you still mad at me?” I asked when it became clear he wasn’t going to strike up the conversation on his own. He put the remote down and looked up at me, his dark eyes unreadable.
“I was never mad at you.”
“You seemed mad earlier.”
He sighed. “I’m disappointed. I don’t want you to look back on this years from now and hate me because you never got to finish high school.”
“I am finishing high school,” I said. “I’m just doing it a little differently than most. And I would never blame you for this, anyway. It was my decision.”
He rested his head back and looked up at me, his eyes searching my face as if trying to find an answer I wasn’t willing to give. “If you’re sure,” he said finally.
“I am,” I replied. “And this doesn’t have to be permanent, anyway. Principal Hale said that if I’m not happy with homeschooling for whatever reason, I can always start attending classes in the spring semester, or even just wait and go back next year.”
“Okay,” he said, and reached his arms out for me. “Come here. Let’s make up.”
I laughed and let him pull me into his lap. I curled up the best I could, resting my head on his chest and trying to fit completely onto his lap so that I wasn’t touching the couch at all. It felt like forever since he’d held me this way, but that wasn’t his fault. I’d been so insecure about my body after Harper was born, feeling more unfamiliar within my own skin than I’d been when I was pregnant. At least then, I knew what was me and what was her. After it just felt like skin that didn’t belong, fat that had nowhere to go. I’d lost the weight pretty quickly, but my body still felt unfamiliar at times. In some ways, I missed being pregnant. I missed the comfort in knowing that anywhere I went, I was never alone. Harper was always with me.