Summary: She was gone, but she’d left him with treasures beyond price. Unsure of what to do, where to go, and who to turn to, Brian returns to Kentucky, hoping that home will heal all wounds. But going home is more than he expected it would be as he discovers opportunities and chance encounters that will change his small family forever…
Categories: Fanfiction > Backstreet Boys Characters: Brian
Genres: Angst, Drama, Romance
Chapters: 5 Completed: Yes
Word count: 8067 Read: 8004
Published: 10/21/07 Updated: 01/28/08
I've been playing around with this story idea for a little while now, and I've written a few chapters of it already, so I thought it was time to start posting it! This is, yet another, Brian romance on my part. If you haven't guessed by now, it's my favorite thing to write LOL Anyhoo, I hope you enjoy!
1. Prologue by starbeamz2
2. Chapter One by starbeamz2
3. Chapter Two by starbeamz2
4. Chapter Three by starbeamz2
5. Note by starbeamz2
Brian turned away from the window and faced the doctor who stood just inside the doorway of the waiting room. Prepared for the worst, he gripped his hands together. “How is she? Is she okay? How’s our baby?”
The doctor’s face was grim and, even before he spoke, Brian knew the answer. “Your daughter is perfectly fine, Mr. Littrell. Despite having the umbilical cord cut off her airways briefly, she managed to pull through and come out just fine.”
Brian knew he should’ve been ecstatic at the news, but he needed the rest. “And my wife? How is she?”
“Mr. Littrell, why don’t you have a seat?” The doctor gestured to the chairs in the room.
His blood ran cold. “Why? What happened? Please, God, just tell me.”
The doctor decided sitting was not to be an option and, hating each time he had to do this, he sighed. “Your wife was hemorrhaging pretty badly, even after we delivered the baby. She lost consciousness while you were still in the room, but, after that, she never regained it. Her pregnancy had been complicated, and the birth was no less. At her age, these things can happen. I’m sorry, Mr. Littrell, we did everything we could, but she’d just lost too much blood.”
If the doctor said anything more, Brian didn’t hear it. His ears were filled with a buzzing sound, and everything inside him went numb. He couldn’t believe that this was really happening. Maybe it was all just a horrible dream, and he could pinch himself to wake up. Or maybe it was all just a big practical joke Leighanne had decided to play, and, when he walked into her hospital room, she would be laughing at how easily he’d fallen for it. But, one look at the doctor’s face, and he knew it was true.
His gaze dropped to where his son lay sleeping on the waiting room couch. How was he supposed to tell Baylee that Mommy wouldn’t be coming home with them? How was he supposed to go on without Leighanne?
And their daughter.
He pressed his fingers to his burning eyes and prayed for the strength to care for their daughter. He hadn’t even held her yet, and Leighanne never would. Their daughter, Baylee’s sister, would grow up without ever knowing her mother. If only he hadn’t been so insistent on them having just one more child…
“Mr. Littrell? Brian?” The doctor cautiously laid a hand on Brian’s shoulder. “Would you like to see your wife?”
Brian’s head jerked up. “Yes,” was out of his mouth before he could even think about it.
She lay on the surgical table, her body covered with a white sheet, leaving her shoulders bare and letting him touch her face with trembling fingers. She was so pale, and, even in death, he thought she looked perfect. At peace. He thought it was his imagination that had him thinking her lips were curved in the smallest of smiles. Her luscious gold locks rested on her shoulders and the hard metal of the table beneath her.
His fingers curled into fists, and his breath turned ragged as he tried to suppress the sobs. But it was too much for him to hold back, and, laying his head on the table next to hers, he wept.
“What am I gonna do without you, Leigh? I can’t make it through a single day without you, and now I have a lifetime to go through alone. God. Why? Why us? Why did God have to take you from us when we need you so much?” He squeezed his eyes shut, but the tears still dripped, hot and fast, down his cheeks and onto her cold shoulders. “And our baby, our little girl. How am I supposed to take care of her all on my own? Leigh, how am I supposed to do anything without you by my side?”
When his sobs quieted, he stroked his fingers through her hair gently, one last time, memorizing the feel of them. Then, lightly pressing his lips to hers, he stepped back and gazed down, with heart-wrenching grief, at the lifeless body of his soul mate. His heart was empty—frozen—and he didn’t believe it would ever beat truly again.
At the door, he glanced back at her one more time. “Bye, baby.”
“Daddy, what are we gonna name her?” Baylee stroked his small fingers over his infant sister’s soft forehead. He thought she was the tiniest thing he’d ever seen and, when they’d first come into the nursery, she’d been squalling like she was being eaten alive by the tigers at the zoo. He didn’t think it would be very fun to have a baby sister if she was going to cry all the time. And now that Mommy was in heaven with the angels…Baylee blinked back the tears, not wanting Brian to see them because he knew it would make his father upset again.
Brian cradled the tiny bundle swathed in pink that was his daughter. His heart, though bruised and battered from the loss of Leighanne only hours before, swelled at the sight of this final reminder of their love. With her dark hair, baby blue eyes, and rose bud mouth, he thought it was fitting that Leighanne had left him and Baylee with an angel. But he’d yet to name her.
“I don’t know, buddy. Got any ideas?” She couldn’t stay Baby Girl Littrell all her life, and none of the names he and Leighanne had picked out sounded good anymore. Not without Leighanne.
Baylee pursed his lips as he tried to tuck his pinky into his sister’s tiny fist. “I don’t know. Can we name her Leighanne for Mommy?”
Brian shook his head, though tears filled his eyes again. Baylee was taking his mother’s loss better than he was. “No, buddy. This little one’s got to have her own name. I think Mommy would like that.”
“Okay.” But Baylee grinned hugely when the baby finally gripped his finger. “Look, Daddy! She likes me.”
Brian smiled at the sight of his children, the tiny baby holding onto her big brother. “I can see that. I bet she can’t wait to grow up and run around. Then, you’re going to have to take care of her and teach her how to do everything.”
“But not my video games. Right?” Baylee looked to Brian for confirmation, and Brian couldn’t help the smile on his face.
“We’ll see. But, right now,” he looked into his daughter’s eyes as she opened them for a few moments, “the baby needs a name.” And, together, father and son studied the lone female in their family and tried to decide what her name could be.
When there was a muffled knocking sound on the window to the nursery, Baylee looked past his father and spotted their family. “Daddy, look! Mommy’s parents are here! Can we go show them the baby?”
Brian looked over his shoulder at his parents-in-law and wondered how he’d tell them that their daughter was dead. Letting Baylee scoot out of the room, Brian moved closer to the window and tilted his arms just enough for the new grandparents to see their granddaughter. Leighanne’s mother smiled hugely and hugged Baylee to her side, while Leighanne’s father simply gave him a thumb’s-up. Sighing, Brian brushed his lips gently over his daughter’s head and laid her back into her assigned cradle.
“I’ll be back, baby,” he whispered. “And I’ll know what to call you, I promise. I just wish your mother was here, she’d love you so much.”
Squaring his shoulders, Brian stepped out of the nursery and met up with his parents-in-law. “Hi, I’m glad you could make it.”
“Are you kidding? We wouldn’t have missed it for the world.” Shirley Tolbert pulled Brian in for a tight hug. “You and Leighanne must be ready to burst. That little girl is just adorable. Did you pick a name yet?”
“Daddy and me are trying to pick one, but we just don’t know,” Baylee said with a frown. “It’s hard coming up with names.”
Jack Tolbert frowned. “What about that list Leighanne was telling me the two of you came up with? I’m surprised she hasn’t already picked a name off it yet.”
“No, um, no, I got rid of that list when the baby was born. Nothing seems to fit anymore.” Brian clenched his hands together, the helpless, despairing feeling flooding him again.
Shirley shook her head. “I’m surprised Leighanne let you do that. She was so set on Aubrey as a name. Why doesn’t she want it anymore?” She paused. “How’s Leighanne doing? She’s probably sleeping off all that stress, right?”
Here we go. “No, she’s not. Shirley, Jack.” Brian looked around the hallway desperately and spotted a sign for the waiting room. “Why don’t we go sit down?”
“Why? What’s going on?” Shirley looked suspicious, but, one look in Jack’s eyes told Brian that Leighanne’s step-father had figured it out. “Where’s Leighanne?”
“Mommy’s with the angels in heaven,” Baylee piped up in a trembling voice, and Brian saw the tears sliding down his son’s cheeks.
Scooping Baylee into his arms, he turned back to Leighanne’s parents. “I’d hoped to tell you…to find a way to tell you, but I just…I don’t know what to do anymore.” He squeezed Baylee closer, drawing comfort from the solid feeling of holding his child.
Shirley shook her head, kept shaking it, even as the first tears dripped out of her eyes. Jack gathered her close as she insisted it wasn’t true, it couldn’t be true, but, seeing the pain in Brian’s eyes, was more than proof that her daughter was gone.
Brian buried his face in Baylee’s face even as Baylee clutched at him, sobbing. Leighanne was gone, and there was no going back.
I know it feels like, lately, I've been killing off Leighanne in my stories, but it's the only way I can get rid of her without making her out to be some heartless witch who broke Brian's heart LOL So, yes, Leighanne has, once again, died...
Chapter One by starbeamz2
Brian grabbed another shirt off of the pile in the center of his bed and, folding it, placed it into one of the giant boxes that sat on his floor. He kept one eye on the window, watching for the school bus to drop Baylee off at the end of the drive, while his ears were alert for sounds from the other side of his room. The gorgeous bassinet that Leighanne had spent so much time searching for, insisting that a baby girl needed a special place to sleep, now took up a spot near the bed. He hadn’t been able to put his little girl down the hall in the nursery. Without Leighanne, he hadn’t wanted to be too far away in case he didn’t hear his daughter cry.
It had been six weeks since he’d buried his best friend, his lover, his wife, and, even now, there were nights that he lay in bed and wept. Everyone had come for the funeral. His parents, his brother and sister-in-law, Leighanne’s family, all the friends he and Leighanne had gathered over eleven years, and the Boys. He’d been surprised when the dark limousine had pulled onto the driveway, and, when it had reached the house, all of them had stepped out. Kevin, Kristin, and Mason, Howie, Leigh, and their five month old son, Jacob, AJ, and Nick and his fiancée. They’d all come for him, to stand by him when he’d been too weak to stand on his own.
By the time Leighanne’s funeral had rolled around, five days after her death, he’d been a mess. Their daughter had been released from the hospital, and she’d still been nameless. After the funeral, where he’d watched them lower the ornate coffin with his wife inside into the cold, hard January ground, everyone but the guys had left.
“You gotta name her, Brian.” Nick held the tiny little girl in his arms as though she were a bomb that would explode if he moved her the wrong way.
Ava, Nick’s fiancée, sat next to Brian, one hand over his. As a grief counselor, she knew there were other ways of manifesting sorrow over the loss of a loved one. “Not naming your daughter isn’t the right way to cope with Leighanne’s death, Brian. I think Leighanne would love it if her daughter had a name, a beautiful one. Don’t you think it’s time?”
“Don’t push him.” AJ was always the first to defend Brian’s actions. When they’d found Brian, just before the funeral, with the remnants of a shattered glass in his hand, blood dripping down his arms, everyone had been quick to fuss over him. AJ didn’t believe fussing over the man would help him at all. Tough love had always been AJ’s preferred method of grief counseling. “So what if we call the kid Baby all her life? That’s been known to be a name. Remember Dirty Dancing?”
“AJ.” Brian sighed. “It’s okay. I know I have to do something. The courthouse called earlier about it. They’re pretty annoyed with me.” He pressed the heels of his hands to his burning eyes. “I just don’t have a good name for her.”
“How about Grace? Like the song you wrote about Leighanne a couple years ago?” Kristin rocked Howie’s Jacob as he gurgled in her arms. “I think it’s fitting.”
Howie shook his head. “Why don’t you think about what you want her name to mean and then look it up? Think about what you want for your daughter, her life.”
“I want her to know that her life won’t be overshadowed by the fact that her mother died giving birth to her,” Brian said immediately. “I want her to know that she’s going to be loved, always, for whoever and whatever she may become. That she’s cherished.”
Nick nodded at Brian’s ideas as he studied the baby. “Kayla means beloved or cherished. I think it’s a pretty name.”
“Where’d that come from?” AJ asked. “Are you suddenly a walking baby name dictionary?”
Nick shrugged. “Nah, I was looking up names anyway, and that was one of the better ones.”
“Looking up names…?” Kevin frowned at him then looked over at Ava, who was trying her best not to squirm. “Oh, wow.”
It took a moment, and then it sank in. Brian sat silently while the others congratulated the couple, while Nick and Ava told them their baby was due in late summer, a few months after their wedding. Finally, Nick met Brian’s eyes, and the flush of happiness dimmed when he remembered why they were all with Brian that day.
“Sorry, Brian. We didn’t mean for everyone to find out this way.” Nick’s ears were red from embarrassment. “We didn’t want to say anything because we’re here for you and Leighanne.”
Brian was silent for a few moments more before he stood and, moving to where Nick sat, hugged him. “Congratulations. But you’re going to have to learn how to hold a baby better. She’s not going to break, Nick.” And, so saying, he gently lifted his daughter into his arms. Studying her for a moment, he sighed. “I like Kayla, too, Nick. So she’ll be Kayla. Kayla Hope Littrell.”
Now, Brian stood next to Kayla’s bassinet and sighed. She really was the perfect baby. As though she knew that she’d been born under tragic circumstances, she’d done her best to be a good baby. She hardly ever cried and always slept straight through the night. Though she’d had a touch of jaundice, napping in the winter sunlight in the sunroom had cured her easily enough. When Baylee held her, she cooed and gurgled, making Baylee beam proudly at how his sister loved him.
Kayla’s eyes fluttered open even as Brian watched her, and he found himself being watched right back by her deep blue eyes. They were the same shape Leighanne’s had been, but, aside from having Leighanne’s nose, Kayla was all Littrell. Her hair had lightened to a chestnut shade and curled wildly around her tiny head. She blinked up at Brian before a smile spread across her tiny lips, and, smiling back through a wave of love, he eased her out of the bassinet and into his arms. Moving to the window, he watched Baylee rush up the driveway and wondered what second grade stories he’d hear today.
“We’re going to be okay, Kayla,” Brian murmured, as he carried her downstairs at the same time Baylee burst through the doors. “We’re going to make it, I swear. It’s what your mom would’ve wanted.”
“Daddy, do we have to move? Are you sure?” Baylee swiped at his milk moustache before reaching for the last of his cookies. “I really like second grade here. I have friends, and we do cool stuff, and Timmy Jones showed me how to spit like a bazillion yards today!”
Brian checked how much of the formula milk Kayla had drank so far and repositioned the bottle, so she could suck in the last of her late afternoon meal. “Baylee, please tell me you didn’t actually do what Timmy Jones showed you to do. You know it’s not good manners to spit.”
“But Daddy,” Baylee began only to be cut off.
“Bay, you know the rules. So, how’d the spelling test go?” Brian asked, effectively changing the subject and cutting off the coming argument.
Baylee shrugged. “It was okay. I got a B.”
“A B? That’s not bad.” Brian found that Kayla had fallen asleep in his arms and cradled her closer. “We’ll try to get you that A before we leave for Kentucky.”
“But I don’t wanna go to Kentucky. I wanna stay here and play with my friends and be in Mrs. Simon’s class. Please, Daddy,” Baylee pleaded. He’d been protesting the move ever since Brian had decided that they were leaving Georgia. Baylee’s whole life had been spent just outside of Atlanta, with occasional snatches around the world, and he couldn’t imagine just picking up and moving. It was an earth-shattering event for him, and he couldn’t understand why Brian didn’t want to stay where they were.
Brian felt the headache brew nastily and wished, for the thousandth time, for patience and strength. “Baylee, we’re going to move closer to Nanny and Papa because they miss us. Don’t you want to be able to see them more often?”
“Maybe, but I still don’t wanna leave here. Don’t you like it here anymore, Daddy?” Baylee knuckled away a cranky tear. “And we can’t leave Mommy. She’s still gonna be here in the ground. We can’t leave her, Daddy.”
Even as the despairing grief filled him, Brian remained firm. “We’re moving, Bay, and you’re going to enjoy living in Lexington. It’s where I was born and raised, and I know you’ll make new friends really fast. I promise you’re going to like it.”
“And if I don’t?”
“Then we’ll figure out how to make it better for you, but we will move, buddy.” Kayla let out a sleepy cry, and Brian stroked her back, soothing her.
Baylee glared at Kayla. “I wish she was never born. Then Mommy would be here, too, and we wouldn’t have to move away! I wish Mommy was here! I hate Kayla.” And, so saying, he stormed off, and, moments later, Brian heard the slam of Baylee’s bedroom door.
He pressed his lips to Kayla’s forehead and breathed in the soft, comforting scent of baby. “Oh, Bay,” he whispered. “I wish Mommy was here, too. All the time.”
Chapter Two by starbeamz2
Thanks for all the reviews, guys! Here's the next chapter!
Brian checked the GPS navigator and took the exit it directed him towards. The late afternoon sunlight reflected on his dark sunglasses as he glanced through the rearview mirror to check on his children. Kayla slept peacefully in her car seat, while Baylee watched a movie on the television screen tucked into the back of Brian’s seat. Though there were still times when Baylee complained about moving, he’d slowly come to accept that it would happen whether or not he wanted it.
Shifting his gaze from the back, he glanced around at the scenery they passed as he drove down a busy thoroughfare. There were dozens of shops lining the street, and he tried to find all the ones he could remember roaming through as a child, then a teenager. He recalled vividly the taste of the chocolate in Milton’s Candy Corner as he saw the familiar sign for the shop that was nearly a Lexington institution. He was pleased to find that, while there had been several changes over the years, much of the city had stayed the same.
He frowned, though, when they were stopped at an intersection. Where was the basketball court he’d always shot hoops at with his friends? It should have been on that corner, he thought, but, where the court had once stood, there was now a bustling bank. He supposed it was to be expected. After all, the city had to have grown, too. He couldn’t have been the only one making changes in his life.
When he turned into the quiet, tree-lined neighborhood, he studied, for the thousandth time, the place he’d decided to relocate his family to. The houses were spread apart and were good-sized, single family homes. Not brand new, but not too old, these homes were elegant and stately, and he figured Leighanne would have approved. At least, he hoped she would have.
“Here we go, Baylee.” Brian eased the car into the driveway of their new home and, turning off the engine, got out of the car. While he eased Kayla’s carrier out without waking her, Baylee scrambled out of the car and, arms folded over his chest, stared at the home. Brian moved to stand next to him, and, together, father and son examined their new home.
The house was built of weathered red brick and gray stone and sprawled across lawns that were slowly turning green with spring. A wide porch wrapped around the front and side of the house, and a stone pathway led up to the wooden white steps up to the porch. Two stories tall and giving off an aura of coziness, it awaited them.
Squeezing Baylee’s shoulder comfortingly, Brian started up the pathway. Baylee followed him, a nervous feeling roiling in his belly. He hadn’t wanted to leave his home behind, but, because Brian always got a sad feeling on his face when he complained about moving, Baylee had finally complied with the move. It wasn’t going to be fun, he decided as Brian unlocked the door, but he was going to do it. For Daddy.
And maybe even for Kayla. He didn’t really hate her, but she had changed everything in his life by being born. Even though there were still times when he wished his father could return her to the hospital, he knew it wasn’t possible. Besides, he was coming to like being a big brother. His friends at school had little brothers and sisters, and they all said that it was pretty cool to get to be the big kid in the family because you got be the one to know everything first. And Daddy would probably rely on him more to help take care of things. That was okay in Baylee’s book because he wanted all the grown up things that came with ‘sponsibility.
But he still missed his mommy every single day and night.
They stepped into the foyer, and Brian let out the breath he hadn’t been aware he’d been holding.
“Home sweet home, Baylee,” he said aloud and felt Baylee tense up a bit under his hand.
Though he knew Baylee would take some time to feel comfortable here, Brian knew it was going to be all right. For the first time since he’d decided on moving, he was absolutely certain he’d made the right decision.
It felt right, he thought. It might not have been the home he and Leighanne had made for their family, but, then, this home wasn’t meant to be like the old one. This was going to be the one he created for his children, one in which he hoped they would grow up happy. He glanced down at Kayla, who was still sleeping peacefully in her carrier. This would be a home where she would know only happiness and no pain, no sense of loss. Not the way Baylee did and would for quite some time.
Brian watched as Baylee walked around the front entrance, his nose wrinkled as he studied the credenza set against one wall and the elegant mirror hanging on another. When his son moved into the parlor, Brian followed him.
“What do you think, Bay?” Brian set Kayla down next to one of the brand-new sofas he’d ordered for the room. Every piece of furniture in this home was new. The old house was still theirs, as well, and Brian had been unable to bear moving even one piece of furniture from it.
Baylee plopped onto a loveseat and felt the plush material give under his weight. “I guess it’s okay.”
Brian smiled. “Wanna see your room, buddy?”
Baylee shrugged. He wanted to see his old room, the one in Georgia, but, remembering his resolution, he stood and followed Brian up the stairs to his new room. Brian had flown up the week before to organize all the furniture and make certain that everything was arranged the way he thought his children would be most comfortable. He just hoped that, knowing his son, he’d made the best decision.
When Baylee stepped into the room that was to be his, Brian had the pleasure of watching Baylee’s jaw drop. “Wow, Daddy.” The words were a reverent whisper. “This is so cool! Look at the bed!” And, forgetting that he still wore shoes, Baylee made a flying leap onto the bed to fully enjoy the sheer size of it.
It was the first time Brian had heard his son laugh in the months since Leighanne’s death, and he cherished it. “So, you like it? You don’t want me to take it back to the store and get another one?”
“Nope!” Baylee bounced some more as he studied the rest of the room. There were basketball posters hanging on the walls, accompanied by movie posters of some of his favorite films. A desk built of the same wood as his bed frame sat against one wall, while a matching chest of drawers took up some space against another. There were three windows facing the backyard, and Baylee could see the enormous backyard this new home had. “Daddy?”
“Yeah, Bay?” Brian moved to stand next to Baylee when his son went to the windows. “Is everything okay with the room? Is there anything else you want? Besides a TV and your PS3?”
Baylee shook his head. “No, I like it. A lot. Thanks, Daddy.” His arms went around his father, and, in an old habit that was hard to break, Brian scooped his son up into his arms. “We have a really big backyard, huh?”
Brian studied the vast expanse of green grass that was surrounded by enormous oaks and maples on three sides. “Yeah, I guess we do.”
“Let’s make a garden. Like the one we have at…” Baylee trailed off, remembering that this was now home. “In Georgia,” he finished. “I think Mommy would like it if we had a garden like hers. I could help you plant the flowers. Mrs. Simon said that the best time to plant a garden was in the spring ‘cause the flowers get all the April showers that they need to grow and grow. Maybe if we planted one, it would be all pretty and stuff by summer.” He stopped and waited for Brian to answer. It had been a while since he’d said that much to his father, and Brian’s surprised look made him wish he hadn’t gotten so mad and shut him out.
“Of course, we can.” Brian squeezed Baylee close, thrilled by the way his son was opening up to him again after weeks of sullen silences. “And, you know what else we can do?”
“How would you like a swing set or a jungle gym? Maybe even a slide,” he suggested. “I know we didn’t have that before, but we’ve got plenty of room, and we can build one.”
“And then, when Kayla gets bigger, I can push her on the swing.” Baylee grinned. “I bet she’ll like all of that, too. Right, Daddy?”
Brian glanced over his shoulder at where the nearly three month old lay napping. “I bet she would. There’s still a while before she can enjoy it, but I know she’d love it if her big brother helped push her on the swings.” He kissed Baylee’s forehead before setting him back on the ground. “So, tomorrow, after your first day of school at Pine Forest Elementary, we can go and buy all the things we need to make our garden and look at all the things we’ll need for the playset. How’s that sound?”
“Do I have to go to school tomorrow?” Baylee stared at his feet, wishing the answer was no and knowing it would be a yes.
“I know it’s gonna be hard, Bay, to go to a new school, but I promise that everything will be okay. Before you know it, you’ll make brand new friends, and you’ll have lots of fun.” Brian ruffled Baylee’s curls, making his son smile hesitantly. “I met your teacher, Miss Holloway last week. She’s pretty excited to have you in class.”
Brian smiled. “Yup. She said that she’s already coming up with all sorts of fun activities that the class can do to help you learn all about what they do in her class. Plus, your class has a pet hamster. Isn’t that cool?”
“Yeah.” Baylee seemed to perk up a bit and remembered his own pets. “Daddy, are the dogs gonna come soon?”
Brian nodded, remembering that their two dogs were traveling up with Leighanne’s sister when she came with the last of their things. “They’ll be here in a couple days, and then our family will be set.” He checked his watch. “Nanny and Papa are expecting us for dinner in a little while. Do you want to watch Kayla while I go get our stuff out of the car?”
“Okay!” Baylee hurried across the room to study his sleeping sister. As he leaned over her, she opened her sleepy eyes and stared up at him for a few moments. “Hi, Kayla. You’re gonna hang out with me while Daddy is busy. It’ll be lots of fun!”
Kayla blinked her bright blue eyes, and then a slow smile spread across her lips as she burbled happily, reaching for her big brother. Baylee took her hands in his and giggled even as she babbled up at him.
Brian stood back and watched them, his own smile so wide it hurt his cheeks. Everything was going to be just fine, he assured himself. And, if a part of him wished desperately for Leighanne to stand next to him and watch the loving interaction between their children, he knew it would probably be that way for months and years to come. For his family’s sake, though, he would fill this new home with so much love and joy that neither Baylee nor Kayla would ever feel the void that Leighanne’s loss had left.
“So how does Baylee like the new house?” Jackie Littrell scooped more apple pie onto her son’s plate. He’d grown far too thin in the past months, and she was determined to see him put that weight back on. “Is he still complaining about the move?”
Brian poked at the pie with his fork before taking a tiny bite. He had no appetite but knew his mother would never let him off the hook if he didn’t clear his plate. “He’s okay with it. I think he’s actually getting into the idea, now. He had all these ideas today about making a garden like the one Leigh and I had in Atlanta.” He smiled, remembering Baylee’s ideas for the basement, which was still empty of everything but boxes. “He’s opening up again, and I think he’s slowly getting through the grief.”
“That’s good.” Harold patted his son’s back, even as his eyes shifted to study his grandson playing with the dog. “And Kayla’s okay?”
“She’s the best baby I could’ve ever hoped for,” Brian replied. “She rarely cries, and she drinks all of her milk when she’s supposed to. She had a little cold last week, but you wouldn’t have been able to tell at all from the way she was so peaceful about the whole thing.” He sighed. “She’s a blessing to have. Baylee’s over resenting her for why Leighanne’s not here, and he’s a big help with her. He actually asked if he could learn how to change diapers.”
Jackie chuckled and stroked her finger over Kayla’s cheek. Kayla’s gaze shifted to her grandmother’s face, and Jackie thought it was as though the little girl could see what she was thinking. “You’re such a cutie, honey. You’re gonna be every bit the darling your mother was.”
“She’s got all the Littrell looks, except for the nose and the shape of her eyes.” Brian had a mental flash of Leighanne, hugely pregnant with Kayla, teasing him about how their daughter was going to look just like her. “I guess Leigh was wrong about her getting all the Wallace genes.”
Jackie hated seeing the desolate look in her son’s eyes but knew of no way to dispel the immense grief that still lingered within him. “She’s perfect, Brian, and she’s her own person. She’s everything Leighanne hoped for.”
“Yeah, but there are still times I wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t insisted that we have one more baby. But then, that would be like wishing Kayla out of existence, and I can’t bear to do that.” Brian held out his arms, and Jackie passed Kayla over to him. “No matter how much I miss Leighanne, Baylee and Kayla are my world now. I’m going to do whatever it takes to make sure that they’re happy, well-adjusted kids.”
Watching him as he murmured to his daughter, Jackie knew he’d succeed in that goal, but she still wondered. While Brian was so focused on caring for his children, who was going to care for him?
Chapter Three by starbeamz2
Thanks for all the wonderful reviews! Here's the next chapter, and I hope you enjoy!
Brian gripped Baylee’s hand in his as they both studied the sprawling gray brick building. Pine Forest Elementary School was three stories tall and filled a block and a half of space. He knew just about everything there was to know about the school where Baylee would be spending the rest of his elementary school career. It didn’t calm his nerves any to know that it was one of Lexington’s best elementary schools, or that he’d gone there when he was younger and knew it to be so. He just hoped Baylee would like it.
“Daddy?” Baylee looked up at Brian curiously.
“You’re gonna be fine, Baylee. I promise.” Brian managed a smile even as he felt the sweat pearl on his forehead.
Baylee’s brows rose. “I know, Daddy. Can we go in now?”
Brian gulped and took a deep breath. “Yeah, okay. Let’s go in.”
In the main office, they met with the assistant principal, who showed them around the school before depositing Baylee outside his new classroom.
“I’m sure Baylee will love Miss Holloway’s classroom. She’s one of our best teachers, and she’s been looking forward to your arrival,” the principal told Baylee with a smile before turning to Brian. “Mr. Littrell, Baylee and I can handle it from here. Why don’t you get on out of here? I’m sure you’ve got dozens of things to do with your new home.”
“Ah, yeah, I guess I do.” Brian hesitated, nervous about leaving Baylee with virtual strangers. He crouched in front of his son. “Bay, if you need anything, I’m just a phone call away. You know that, right?”
Baylee nodded all the while thinking his father had finally gone off the deep end. “I’ll be okay. I’m not scared or anything. I promise.”
Brian eyed him for a moment before he nodded. “Okay. Okay then.” He straightened and patted Baylee’s shoulder. “I’ll see you when you get home this afternoon. You know which bus to take, right?”
“Yes, Daddy.” Baylee had to suppress the long-suffering sigh. He just wanted to get on with the day and meet his new class, but Brian was making that harder to do by stalling.
Brian seemed to see the way his son felt and took the first step away. “Okay, well, have a great first day.” And, because he needed it, he flashed Baylee a brilliant smile. “I’d stay, but I gotta go!”
As he walked off, he heard Baylee’s giggle and felt a bit better. But by the time he made it outside, he was sweating buckets and more nervous than before. What if Baylee hated it? What if the teacher was a major bitch and picked on the new kid? What if the kids didn’t like his son?
Shuddering from all the questions, he pressed his back against the building and, leaning over to rest his head between knees, he took deep breaths. He was being ridiculous by worrying so much, he scolded himself. His son had been through a lot this year, and he’d come out okay, hadn’t he? He’d do perfectly fine in this new school. Baylee had taken to the dozens of new places and people he’d met with great ease, so why would this be any different?
Despite thinking such thoughts, though, he was still nervous.
“Whoa, bad day, huh?”
The voice straightened him up quickly. Brian found himself facing a woman who had just exited the building. Her dark eyes gleamed in sympathy and amusement. He shook his head. “No, ah, not a bad day.”
“Do elementary schools usually give you panic attacks?” Her voice was somber, but he could’ve sworn he heard the laugh in it…somewhere.
That snapped his nerves clear. “No. It’s my son’s first day at this school, and I’m just worried that he won’t like it.”
“I wouldn’t worry too much if I were you,” she told him. “What grade is he in?”
She smiled. “Look, kids at that age are remarkably resilient. Your son’s going to be fine. Kids are pretty easygoing at seven. It’s the later years where you’ve got to worry about their well-being.”
Brian thought of how amazingly Baylee had accepted Leighanne’s death, and he knew that she was right. “I guess you’re probably right.”
“I hope knowing that makes the rest of the day a little easier for you.” She stepped off the curb and headed into the parking lot. “Good luck.”
He didn’t bother calling back as she’d already disappeared. Whoever she’d been, he thought, she’d had a good point. “So I’m just not going to think about it anymore,” he told himself as he moved to his own car. “At least not every hour, anyway.”
By the time he’d gotten groceries to fill his nearly empty kitchen and picked Kayla up from his parents’ home, it was nearly noon. Balancing Kayla’s carrier in one hand and a bag of groceries in the other, he walked up to his front door. The amount of jiggling and movement it took to find his keys and open the door made Kayla giggle and babble, so that Brian couldn’t resist leaving the rest of the groceries in the car a while longer just to pick her up and play with her.
When he did remember the bags sitting in his car and the ice cream and frozen foods that had probably begun to melt, he winced and hurried out to bring them back in. He set Kayla up in her swing in the sunlit kitchen as he put everything where it belonged or where he’d on the spot decided it would now belong.
As he put the last of it away—boxes of cereal unhealthy enough that Baylee would eat them—the phone rang. Checking on Kayla, who had decided it was time for a nap, Brian grabbed the receiver and moved into the family room. “Hello?”
“Hey, Brian. How’s it going?”
“AJ!” Pleased with the call, Brian dropped into a comfy armchair. “It’s going okay. Better than I thought it would. I’m glad you called.”
“I figured I’d given you enough time to move in and all. So how are the munchkins? Adjusting okay?”
Brian heard the flick of AJ’s lighter as he answered. “They’re doing way better than I am, to be honest. I took Bay to his new school today, and I was the biggest nervous wreck imaginable.”
“I think he thought I was nuts. He was cool as a cucumber, and I felt like I was nineteen and sweating it out before our first big show.” He found he could laugh about it after the fact. “I even had some woman—probably another mom—tell me to relax, too.”
“Oh, yeah? Was she hot?”
Brian rolled his eyes. “Come on, AJ. You don’t think I really noticed that, do you?”
“Why the hell not? Just because you lost your wife doesn’t mean that you lost your eyesight.” When Brian didn’t say anything, AJ huffed out a breath. “I’m sorry. That was a shitty thing for me to say.”
“No, you’re right.” Brian shook his head. “AJ, it’s only been three months since Leigh…since Leigh. I don’t think I’m ever going to get back into the dating or relationship thing because she was my one.”
“Come on, Bri-”
“No, you listen. I don’t want any other woman, I just want Leighanne. I’m going to spend the rest of my life without her, and that hurts like hell. Maybe I can still see when a woman is beautiful, but it doesn’t mean that I’ll be doing more than looking. I can’t even think about being with another woman, so let’s just not talk about it now. Okay?”
“Yeah, okay. I didn’t mean to bring it up when I called.” AJ sighed. “I’m just worried about you. You’ve just moved from where you lived for the last ten years, and you’re starting everything over. I know you want to leave the group for good instead of just having us all take a break like we agreed, but I can’t help but think that you might be better off if we worked together again.”
Brian wasn’t stupid enough to think he’d never miss singing or being onstage, but… “I need time.”
“That goes without saying.” And it was time to change subjects. “So, what’s Kayla up to?”
“She’s napping. That swing you gave her knocks her right out the second you turn on the music.”
“Well, good. I’m glad she’s using it. I can’t wait to see her again. I bet she’s grown a lot.”
Brian grinned, thinking at how fast she’d grown from the tiny infant to, well, only a couple inches more. “You’ll see her when we come out for Nick’s wedding.”
“Dude, don’t remind me. I still can’t believe the kid’s getting hitched and is going to be a proud papa soon. Who would’ve thought?”
“Definitely not Nick, but, then, love can hit you any time.”
AJ nodded at the words and filed them away for later use. “Oh, yeah. Well, I gotta get going. I told Howie I’d meet him to talk about the golf tournament he’s doing for the Foundation. You know how he gets when we’re late.”
“Yeah, but he’s still not as bad as Kevin.”
AJ chuckled. “Nobody is. Gotta love that about him. Anyway, I gotta run. I’ll call you later.”
Brian hung up and felt a mix of pleasure and sorrow at the call. It had been really great to hear from AJ, but, at the same time, he’d resented the way AJ had seemed so sure that Brian would be ready to see other women again in no time. He couldn’t even handle the idea of another woman in his life who wasn’t Leighanne, and he definitely wasn’t ready to meet anyone new. Not even close.
The only women he wanted in his life for the foreseeable future were the ones in his family.
The doorbell rang almost an hour later, and Brian frowned into Kayla’s beaming face. “Now, who could that possibly be?”
Tucking her into his arms, he checked the peephole, and his jaw dropped. “Holy wow, it’s the welcome wagon.” Knowing it was rude to leave people waiting on the porch, he pulled open the door and felt nervous all over again. “Hello.”
There were at least ten women on his porch, all carrying some form of food and sporting brilliant smiles. An image of the Stepford wives flashed in his brain before one of them stepped forward and greeted him.
“Well, hello there, new neighbor!” She carried a tray piled high with brownies. “I’m Stephanie Marshall. I live two doors down from you on the right with my family. The girls and I just thought we’d drop by and welcome you to the neighborhood.” She spotted Kayla in his arms, and her smile widened. “Oh, my. What a lovely baby! What’s her name? How old is she?”
Brian’s brows shot up at the curiosity and the barrage of information. “Ah, this is Kayla. She’s only three months old. I’m Brian,” he added. “Brian Littrell.” Remembering his manners, he held the door open and stepped back. “Why don’t you ladies come in? It was really nice of you to go to the trouble-”
“Oh, it was no trouble at all.” Another woman, this one in her mid-forties, patted his cheek as she sailed in the door. “We just love to meet new neighbors.”
They all gathered in his kitchen and introduced themselves. Some of the women were in their late twenties or early thirties, but the majority were housewives in their mid to late forties. And all of them lived on his street. Four of them were officers in the homeowners’ association, and all of them were desperately eager to know everything about him and his family.
By the time they left an hour and a half later, he was exhausted. Sprawling in a kitchen chair, he looked down at Kayla, whose eyelids were drooping. She’d been passed from woman to woman and cooed over. They’d pried out the fact that Leighanne had died in labor and had proceeded to flutter and coo over him, too. He’d told himself that a good chunk of his fans were just like these women, but he was still mortally embarrassed when they were fussing over him. He’d been invited to all of their homes for dinner, and they’d insisted that they needed to meet his son.
Brian sighed and shook his head as his gaze strayed to his food-laden table. There was everything from appetizers to desserts on it. “I don’t think I’ll need to cook for the next week, Kay. I can’t believe we have neighbors like that. It’s too Desperate Housewives for me.”
When Baylee burst through the door full of stories, he stopped short at the sight of the table. “Wow, Daddy. Did you cook all that?”
“Are you kidding me? Did you forget that your old man can’t even boil an egg right?” Brian ran his fingers wearily through his hair. “I just met all the neighborhood moms. I think one of them has a little girl in your class. Jaimie?”
Baylee frowned as he thought. “Oh, yeah. I remember her. She sits on the other side of the room, but she draws real good.”
“Really well,” Brian corrected. “Yeah, well, her mom made the chicken that we’ll have for dinner. And don’t even think about touching those brownies until after dinner.”
Baylee’s hand froze above the tray of brownies, and he stuck it behind his back. “I wasn’t.” He shuffled his feet before checking to see if Kayla was awake. Disappointed that she wasn’t, he looked up at his father. “Wanna hear about school?”
“Just tell me one thing.”
“Do you still want to go back tomorrow?”
Baylee’s smile grew. “Oh, man, yeah!”
Brian breathed a sigh of relief and let himself sink lower in the chair. “Thank God.”
I absolutely hate when authors do this to my favorite stories, but I'm going to have to do this to this utterly fabulous story that I started when I had loads of inspiration. Unfortunately, due to the fact that I have far too many projects on-going, and the fact that I am trying to move out of fanfic set in real-life (since writing AUs is easier when I want to convert them to original fiction), makes it almost impossible for me to find the juice to finish this story.
If you DO want to know what was meant to happen in this story, please let me know, and leave me your email, and I'll try to email you the synopsis.
I am truly sorry to everyone who was looking forward to updates on this one. Like I said, it makes me sad when it happens to stories that I love, and so I understand if some of you are unhappy with my decision. I just thought it was unfair to let you go on thinking that there might be an update.
Thanks for all your support!
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.