Brian hurried into the hospital, wishing the revolving doors moved just a bit faster. He hadn’t stopped since he’d come out of his Introduction to Criminal Law class and seen the text message from his mother-in-law. He’d always thought his worst nightmare would be a message saying his father had finally managed to kill his mother. Now, it was steady contractions. Active labor. Hospital. And he was a good two hours away. When not in the middle of a class.
“Ashley Kalish,” he said, leaning against the reception desk. Then, he shook his head. “Sharrock. It’s Sharrock now.” That was still hard for him to believe. Not that they’d had a lot of time to savor it before he’d had to leave.
“You family?” the receptionist asked.
“I’m her husband. She’s having a baby. My baby. I need to know where she is.”
He spun at his mother-in-law’s voice. “Adreanna. What are you doing down here? Ashley? How is she? Oh god, did something happen? Is it the baby?”
Adreanna Kalish laughed and set a hand gently on his shoulder. “Slow down, Brian. I came down here to call you and see how far away you were. Since”– the corners of her mouth tugged up into a grin –“last time I spoke to you, you were just leaving Pittsburgh. Which means you should still be at least half an hour away.”
His cheeks heated a bit. He may have driven a little faster than the posted speed limit as much as possible on the way up here. “I needed to get here.”
She slid her arm around to his back and guided him toward the elevators. “Like I told you when you called me back, she could be stuck in this stage for a while. There was no need to speed.”
“Is everything okay? Is she having problems?”
Adreanna laughed again. “Nothing like that. Most women aren’t lucky enough to have speedy labors.”
He tried to let that soothe him, but he hadn’t even been this nervous when he’d been waiting for his acceptance letters to law school. And he’d been pretty damn nervous then.
They stepped ino a room, and Adreanna announced “The daddy’s here!” Then, she brushed her lips over Ashley’s forehead. “And now, I’ll go find your dad and leave you in Brian’s hands.”
“Thanks, Mom,” Ashley choked out.
She left the room, and Brian took her place beside the bed. He hated seeing the tears in her eyes. “it’s going to be okay, Ash.”
“I wasn’t sure you’d make it,” she admitted.
“I promised, didn’t I? That I’d do everything to get back here in time.” She nodded but didn’t say anything, and he wiped away the tears that had spilled over. “We haven’t even been married six months. I can’t believe you’d think I’d start breaking my promises already.”
She let out a watery laugh then squeezed his hand hard. “Do you need the nurse? The doctor? Drugs? What do I do?”
She laughed again, this one a little stronger. “The nurses keep coming by to check on me. It’ll be fine. There’s no need to panic.”
Maybe not for her, but he couldn’t bear to see the pain on her face. And know there wasn’t anything he could do to help. “There has to be something I can do.”
“Just stay by my side. That’s all I need right now.”
“You need to get going, Brian. You already missed classes on Thursday and Friday. You can’t miss any more.”
Brian glanced over to where Ashley sat in the glider then back down to the baby he held. “You guys need me here. I can-”
“Do not even say it, Caleb Brian Sharrock. You’ve tried that before, and I didn’t let you get away with it then, either.”
He winced when she used his full name. She knew he hated when she did that. “Never use his name for me again, Ash. Please.” His father had only been buried for about six months, and hearing his name still made a shudder go through him. It had taken a couple weeks to get almost all his professors to call him Brian. There was only one who was still holding out this semester.
She pushed herself up out of the chair. She was still moving slowly, and he wished he could take away the lingering discomfort for her. “I’m sorry, Brian,” she said, taking the baby from him. It was probably almost time for her to wake up and eat again. “But, you’re not throwing your future away.”
“You are my future. Both of you. Law school will still be there when I won’t be missing all of her firsts.”
“We could come back with you. Your mom’s doing better on her own. The school’s giving me three months paid time off.” That was one of the nice things with her working for a private school. They were a lot more accommodating than the public school would have been able to be. “By the time you go back in the fall, we’d be able to figure something else out.”
Brian shook his head. “Even if you were down there with me, I’d never see you. When I’m not in class, I’m studying. Or I’m sleeping. I’m lucky to find the time for that or eating. I miss you, Ash. Now, I’m going to miss Alyssa, too. Maybe it would be better for me to stay here.”
“Absolutely not,” Ashley insisted. “I told you on our wedding night that if you threw this away, I’d divorce you. That still holds true. I even have an in with a lawyer.”
“I’m not a lawyer yet,” Brian said, rolling his eyes toward the ceiling. “And there’s certainly no way I’d oversee my own divorce.”
“And I wasn’t taking about you,” Ashley said, a smile playing around her lips. “Patrick’s been by to see your mom and me almost every day you’ve been gone. I’m sure if I asked him, he’d take care of everything.”
Brian could only stare at her for a moment. “You’re not serious. You can’t be.” His own mentor. He wouldn’t do that to Brian, would he?
Then, Ashley started laughing. “I haven’t talked to him about it, because you are going back to school. So, it’s a moot point.”
His lips twitched. “Now, you’re using legal speak against me? Not far, Ash. Way to turn a guy on as you’re pushing him out of the house.”
Ashley laughed and leaned into him. “When you come home for Spring break, I promise to make up for it.”
He groaned. “Not fair. Not fair at all. That’s more than two months away.”
“I think you’ll survive. And when you are back up here, I’m sure Mom can watch Alyssa for one night. I’ll need some time alone with you by then.”
He still didn’t want to go. But, Ashley was right, he always seemed to be. And if he didn’t go back now, he never would. And becoming a lawyer had been his dream for almost longer than he could remember. And now it had become Ashley’s dream for him as well. And he’d promised to do all he could to help make her dreams come true. So, he couldn’t let her down.
Brian showed up in the first story in my Kurztown series, First Choice, Second Chance, which had a split timeline. In the “past” scenes, he came off as a bit of a slacker. Then, in the “present” scenes, he’s one of the small town lawyers. He seems all settled down, so I didn’t think he’d really have a story to tell. He proved me wrong. I wrote a prequel to First Choice, Second Chance(well, it actually takes place between the two time lines), which is actually what leads up to this one.