Recap of Chapter 30: Haze was busy in her studio working on a large piece when Jake came in. They had decided to forego celebrating Valentine’s Day because of the whirlwind of celebrations lately. Jake had cheated by making a beautiful picnic and he wanted to fix a time for her to stop working to join him. Little did he know that Haze had a surprise for him too. And it was a big one.
It was when Jake poured the wine and handed a glass out to Haze that she decided to present her gift. She’d been sitting on this surprise long enough, and frankly was quite proud of herself for being able to keep her mouth shut about it. “Wait!” she said hopping up. “I broke the rules. I have a little something for you.”
“Oh, so you can break the rules, but I can’t!” he said to her back as she scurried into her studio.
“Come on,” she protested, calling out over her shoulder, “you may not have bought me a gift, but the picnic and the potted flowers and the wine… that’s not exactly sticking to the rules either.” She reached the bookshelf where the little box was stashed. She could hear him chuckling to himself in the other room as she stood on tiptoes to reach.
“Do I have to close my eyes or wear a blindfold or something?” he teased, sipping wine.
Haze stood in the doorway, holding the box. She peered into the room. Jake’s back was to her as he leaned comfortably against an oversized pillow on the floor, the picnic he’d created spread out in front of him. As she watched, he picked up a cluster of grapes, held it overhead and nibbled from it playfully. His playfulness was one of the things she loved about him. He was caring and carefree at the same time. She thought how everything would be changed in a matter of minutes, and for a moment felt the loss of how things were between them up until now. Would he be thrilled or shocked or—God forbid—upset? She took a deep breath in and out to gather courage, then tucked the box behind her back and strode into the room.
“Ah, she’s back,” he said, holding out the bunch of grapes for her to take a bite. She settled down on the pile of cushions opposite him, leaned forward and bit off a grape. He hadn’t noticed that she had set aside the wine. “I was going to ask if it’s bigger than a breadbox,” he said, smiling and relaxed, “but I can tell that it isn’t since you can fit it behind you.”
Haze brought the gift around and held it in her lap. She thought of adding an explanation but changed her mind. The gift will speak for itself. She bit her lip. Jake noticed that she looked nervous. “If it’s making you that uncomfortable, I’m dying to have it.”
She held it out. “I was going to tell you that it’s nothing much, but that would be a lie.”
Jake sat up straight. “Now I’m getting nervous. What kind of big present could be in this innocent looking little box?”
“Life-changing,” she said, enjoying keeping him guessing.
He picked up his wine glass. “Maybe I should gird myself before unwrapping it.” He emptied his glass and made a show of quickly refilling it. “Will this be enough?” he questioned.
“You might want to fill it to the top,” she said, smiling coyly.
He tipped the bottle, stopping just below the rim.
“Better.” She declared. He held the bottle to the light, seeing that there was hardly any left. He shrugged and then promptly drank the last sip directly from the bottle, which made her giggle.
“Okay, enough with the liquid courage. Open it, already!” she said.
Jake sat up on his knees. He put the present in front of him, squaring it carefully before making a show of pushing up his sleeves. Haze rolled her eyes. He poised his hands around the package as if he were preparing for it to come alive and attack. Haze giggled at his antics. He stared at it dubiously before pouncing, tearing the paper away and tossing it aside. The box was a simple brown square with a lid. He looked up at her. “Is it as dangerous as it looks?”
“Very,” she warned. “Open with extreme caution.” She was glad that he was being so playful. It helped her forget about being nervous.
Continuing with the game, Jake lifted the lid at the corner, peering into the crack cautiously. It was a joke, but as he saw a bit of what was inside, he frowned. He sat back on his heels before lifting off the lid in one motion. What lay inside had him puzzled. Haze waited expectantly for his reaction, her hands covering her mouth. He reached inside and lifted out one tiny sheepskin boot, holding it up to the light. He looked over at her, eyebrows raised. “Not exactly my size… ” he said laughing. “What do I do with them—plant them in hopes they’ll grow?” He picked up the other one and made them walk across the blanket toward her. “These don’t look dangerous at all,” he said, perching them on the edge of the charcuterie board. She waited.
“Perhaps not dangerous, but absolutely life-changing.” She said, smiling. She waited for it to hit him and when realization finally came, she could see it sweep across his features.
His head popped up, his mouth went slack, and he fixed round eyes on her, eyebrows arched. “Does this mean? I mean, are you… ? Oh my God! Is it true?” he stammered.
Haze beamed. She nodded, happy tears gathering in her eyes. “It’s true.”
“Oh my God!” he said, rubbing his face.
He stood and reached for her hand, lifting her to her feet. “Come here,” he said, wrapping her in his arms. “A baby. Already? That happened fast.”
She pulled away to look into his face. “You’re happy about it, though, aren’t you?” Before he could reply, she buried her face against his chest. “Please tell me you’re happy about this.”
He pulled back, lifting her chin. Her eyes were squeezed shut. He laughed. “Open your eyes, silly.” She blinked back tears and looked up at him, concern on her face. He kissed her on the forehead. “I’m very happy,” he said. “We wanted to have a family and now one is started.” He pulled her close with a chuckle. “You can stop frowning now. I couldn’t be happier.” Relief flooded over her entire body as she relaxed in his arms. He swayed back and forth, his chin resting on her head. “A baby. Wow! Do you know when it’s due?”
“Mid to the end of September, if my calculations are right.” Suddenly, there was a strange sound, causing them both to look. Crowley had taken advantage of the forgotten picnic by snatching a piece of meat off the board and was high-tailing it to the back door. He’d tipped over Jake’s glass of wine, which clattered against the board. They both shouted, “Crowley!” as he ducked through the dog door, making his getaway into the backyard. Jake scrambled for a napkin to sop up the mess. “I’ll get a towel,” Haze said, dashing into the kitchen. They spent the next few minutes working together to save the blanket and the rug underneath, tossing the big pillows to safety, and running back for more towels. Much of the food on the board was wine soaked, especially the baguette, which acted as a sponge. As Jake held it up, heavy and purple, dripping with wine, he said, “Well, this certainly did its job.” And they fell into laughter.
The cleaning up had ruined the carefully planned ambiance and they wound up abandoning the scene. They stood at the island in the kitchen, surrounded by wet towels and stacked dishes, picking through the remaining bits of wine-stained food. Crowley came back in, nosing around the living room, his tags jangling.
“You’re in big trouble, bud,” Jake called, causing Crowley to head back outside. They made coffee, grabbed two forks and nibbled cheesecake right out of the box. The mood was light and happy. “I liked your gift,” Haze said, licking her fork, “even though it got ruined.”
He reached out to cover her hand with his. It felt warm to the touch. “I like yours too.”
“Hey,” he said, suddenly energized. “I know what we should do.”
“Let’s go tell Sydney. Let’s do it right now!”
They giggled as they scrambled into their coats and boots and headed out the door, excited to share the news.