It was April and the end of the semester was nearing. Avery was in the midst of researching a paper that was worth a fourth of her grade and it wasn't going well. She was frustrated from spending hours poring over these books. It was mid-afternoon, and fortunately, the boys were in class so she had the suite to herself. The silence helped her focus, but her environment continued to distract her.
She threw her pencil down as she swiveled about on the stool she occupied in the kitchenette. The suite was most certainly a sight to see. Down the middle of the room there was a duck taped line, designating the center of the suite. The duck tape acted as a mini barrier, one that the residents were not allowed to cross. One side of the living room was pristine – clean, dusted, and overall spotless. The other side emitted a groan from the girl. Half of the living room and completely down the hallway were strewn clothes, beer cans, and random papers. Things had really gotten out of hand.
Avery seriously considered ending this war and simply cleaning the other half of the room so she could concentrate. Just as she got up, however, her cell phone began to ring. Yet another disturbance to keep her from her work.
She grabbed it and answered with an annoyed "Hello?"
On the other end, she heard a shocked and scared voice. "Avery?" said Kayla, almost near tears.
"Oh my God, Kayla?"
"Avery," she sputtered again. "I think I'm having my baby." Avery was taken back. Why on Earth wasn't Kayla doing anything?
"You're two weeks early though! You need to get to the hospital," Avery said frantically as she gathered her things and began throwing them in her purse. She didn't know how she was going to get to Edamont, but she was going to get there fast.
"My mom didn't pick up her phone and my dad's out of town," Kayla cried. "I don't know what to do."
Avery's mind was in a whirlwind. "Okay, okay, just sit tight. I'll get somebody to your house in less than five minutes, okay?"
Kayla didn't sound convinced, but Avery had to hang up the phone without a goodbye. She rushed out of the dorm without even locking the door behind her (Jack would kill her for that) all the while dialing on her phone. Certainly there was somebody in Edamont….
Suddenly, she was struck with an idea. She would call Ollie's son, Jacob. Jacob was a senior in high school, he had a car, and he lived only one block from Kayla. Luckily she had gotten Jacob's number over Christmas break when she had worked for his dad.
She silently prayed he would answer. School would have gotten out a half an hour ago. When he finally picked up, she felt a wave of relief.
"Jacob?" she talked quickly. "I don't have time to explain, but Kayla's going to have her baby and she has no one to take her to the hospital. PLEASE tell me you can do it and I'll be there in less than an hour."
There was a stunned silence on the other end until she finally heard him speak. "Of course," he said. She thanked him quickly before finally hanging up. She then sprinted down the stairs until she reached Brandon's floor.
"Brandon!" she called out while trying the door. It was open so she let herself in. Brandon looked up from the book he was reading.
"You know, knocking has always been a courtesy…" he started smugly, but stopped when he saw the look on Avery's face.
Avery brushed off his comment. "Kayla's going to have her baby," she said breathily. "Can you take me to Edamont?"
During the past few months, Brandon and Kayla hadn't kept in touch quite as often as she would have liked. But Brandon was busy with work and homework, and Kayla certainly was busy searching for the right family to adopt her baby. However, there was still something between the two that was undeniable.
At the sound of Kayla's name, Brandon was up in an instant. He grabbed his car keys, and wallet and the two were out the door. While Brandon got the car, Avery tried Jack's cell phone, though she knew full well that he was in the midst of an exam. She left him a message, explaining the situation just as Brandon picked her up.
The ride to Edamont usually took about 45 minutes. Brandon made it there in thirty. She directed him to the hospital and he dropped her off at the front while he parked the car.
When Avery finally arrived at Kayla's room, she felt not only relief, but amusement at the scene before her. Kayla's mother stood by the bedside, holding Kayla's hand. Mrs. McHill looked very little like her daughter. The older woman wore a business suit that did nothing to hide her stick-like figure. Where Kayla was a curvaceous blonde, her mother was a twig of a brunette. It made no difference at the moment, for Mrs. McHill was very in tune to Kayla's distress as she stroked the girl's palm. Kayla seemed to have calmed down for she was barking out order to a frightened Jacob.
"Just get me some ice," Kayla demanded through clenched teeth. Jacob nodded and scampered toward the doorway, running into Avery as he did.
"Thank God you're here," Jacob said. "Pregnant or not, that woman is the devil." He motioned to Kayla who was shooting him a glare.
Upon seeing Avery, Kayla relaxed. "Avery, you made it here fast," she said taking deep breaths.
"What's going on," Avery replied, knowing nothing about the birthing process.
"My water broke while I was at home," Kayla explained. "I've started my first contractions. I don't know how long it's going to take but this is not fun," she complained.
Avery laughed, and even the stiff Mrs. McHill chuckled. "Is there anything I can get you?" she asked.
"I think she's fine now," Mrs. McHill answered just as Jacob brought in some more ice. "I'm sure if you two would like to wait outside, that would be nice."
Avery nodded, wished Kayla luck and then took a seat in the waiting room with Jacob. Brandon was already out there. "How is she?" he asked, worry etched on his face.
"Bossy," Jacob answered before Avery had a chance to speak.
"So normal, then?" Brandon answered. Avery nodded, but hoped everything would be okay with the baby being premature. "Can I see her?" he asked.
"I think so," Avery answered. "As long as she's not having a contraction, she's fine."
Brandon nodded and went into the room. Only a few seconds later, Avery could hear a shout and then Brandon promptly returned.
"I don't think Kayla wants to be seen right now," he said pursing his lips. Avery didn't understand; she knew Kayla had a soft spot for Brandon.
"At least she didn't chuck her shoe at you," Jacob muttered.
"Well what happened?"
"I went in to see her," Brandon explained, "And she said, and I quote 'How dare you come in here when I look like this! I don't even have any makeup on.' She then proceeded to throw her cup of ice at me."
Jacob began to laugh hysterically and Avery even let a small smile slip. "She's just a bit stressed right now," she said.
Brandon returned her comment with a knowing, but amused stare. He then sat down to settle in, just as Jacob dismissed himself.
"As much as I'd love to stay…" the boy started.
"It's fine," Avery responded. "Thanks so much for your help."
Avery wasn't sure how long Kayla would last, but Brandon looked ready to wait. He made a face as he looked around the room for something to read. When he couldn't find anything worth his while, Brandon sat back and attempted conversation.
"So, how are things going?" he asked Avery. She'd been so busy lately he hadn't seen her around much.
"Same as always," Avery sighed.
"You and Jack still disagreeing?" he asked with an amused smile. Avery would never admit that they actually fought, she preferred disagreement.
"Yeah, I'm just getting fed up," she said exasperated.
"I can only imagine," Brandon said, finally finding a magazine worth his time and picking it up. He flipped through the pages and she decided to do the same. There was a month old tabloid with a cover story on Paris Hilton, and a sidebar that read "Belle Henderson Breaks Off Another…Why Engagement Four Didn't Last."
Avery laughed at the news. Jack had told her about it last month, but the thought still amused her that the tennis star couldn't stay engaged for long. Her boredom got the best o f her, and curiously, she flipped to that article. The article described Belle's fiancée as detached and inattentive, blaming him for the young starlet's tendency to stray. Then, there was a display of photos of Belle with a "mystery man," presumably the reason the engagement didn't work out. The photos were shot in Texas, where Belle had taken a vacation right after breaking it off with her fiancée. Avery peered at the photos; the blonde-haired mystery man caught her eye.
"Brandon," she said, staying focused on the exposé. "Have you read the article about Belle Henderson's breakup?"
"That's old news," Brandon said, throwing down his own magazine. The obstetrics office was littered with women's magazines. He couldn't find a decent sports article around here anywhere. "And I don't read that junk."
"I know," Avery said leaning over and showing him the article. "But check this out. Belle has a mystery man." Brandon stared at it blankly. "In Texas…" Avery continued. There was still no response from Brandon. "Does he look familiar at all?"
Finally, it dawned on him, and Avery could practically see the light bulb flash above his head. Brandon took the magazine and scratched his head. "No…could it really be…Colin?"
Avery only laughed.
Jack balanced two large bouquets of flowers as he made his way into Edamont's surprisingly modern hospital. He had expected something akin to a medical clinic found in Africa, but this was nothing like it. He asked the nurse for directions to "the floor for pregnant girls," to which the nurse did not look pleased. Nevertheless, she directed him to the third floor, and Jack continued on his way.
As he tramped up the stairs, he grunted at the weight of the flowers. One – a dozen roses, only the best for Ms. Kayla McHill – kept slipping out of his grip. The other was simple, petite bouquet of wildflowers for his girl. He had decided that he and Avery had been fighting long enough; he would be the first to cave.
It was, after all, their three month anniversary. He was sure Avery had probably forgotten. Both of them had forgotten their one month until late that night, when Avery had the bright idea to celebrate at McQue's. They had to fight with the bouncer to get her into the bar once more, but afterward, it had been a completely enjoyable night. Of course Avery had gotten a little drunk, and when Jack had gotten tired of dancing, she attempted to dance with every other man there. Jack let her have her fun, knowing full well she'd be going home with him. At the end of the night, Avery goaded him into one more dance, saying she had picked a special song on the jukebox. When George Michael's "Gotta Have Faith" came on, Jack could only raise an eyebrow. Avery smiled coyly.
"How is this a special song?" Jack had asked the drunken girl bemusedly.
"I like George Michael," she stated simply, clinging to him
"Well then I suppose this will be our song," he said and they danced until he took her home.
Nights like those made it worth all the trouble they went through. Take Colin, for instance. After that night he had dropped by and surprised them all, he hardly spoke to Colin. Their conversation in the car hadn't ended well, yet it certainly wasn't an end to their friendship. Colin said he just needed some time away from them. Jack understood, apologized for hurting him, and then Colin asked that Jack and Avery go home separately. Jack didn't try and contact him for two weeks. When he finally did, Colin had had some time to cool off. He said that he and Jack were cool, it was just taking awhile for him to get used to the idea of Avery with him.
Then, three weeks later, Colin had called to apologize for overreacting. Turns out, Colin had run into Belle Henderson, Jack's Belle Henderson, when his team had traveled to New York. Belle admitted that she had always had a crush on him, and they hit it off. Jack could only laugh at the idea. Nevertheless, he was excited to finally get Colin's blessing. So excited, in fact, that he went straight home to take Avery out on a date. However, he was surprised to find Avery occupying the kitchenette, attempting to cook a casserole. The sight of Avery in a pair of his sweatpants and a tank top, covered in flour and some sort of soupy substance was still fresh in his mind. That night, he ate every last piece of that damned casserole after forcing Pete and Brandon to eat some too. He pretended to love it while his two friends complained endlessly.
Avery thought it was disgusting and threw her own portion in the garbage.
Jack was in love with her. He hadn't told her yet because he knew she wouldn't appreciate it unless he really meant it. He'd been meaning to tell her for a while now, but he wasn't really practiced in this area. He was half hoping that at the right moment, he would just know to say it. So far, this plan had been unsuccessful.
When he arrived in the waiting area, he found Brandon and Avery hunched over a small piece of paper on a coffee table; they were in the midst of a game of tic-tac-toe. Jack slipped past without their notice and delivered the roses to the receptionist, leaving Kayla's name with them. The receptionist said that Kayla was in labor now, and she would deliver the flowers afterward. Then, Jack took a seat to the left of Avery and she finally noticed him.
"Jack," she said surprised, sitting up from her game. "You came."
"Of course," he said. "You called."
Avery wrinkled her nose, and Brandon, sensing the two needed time to talk, dismissed himself.
"I know, it's just with…" she started, but seemed to think better of it. She shrugged. "I'm tired of fighting. I don't care if Pete lives with us. He's your friend and if you want him to live in your dorm, that's up to you. Even if he is a complete slob…"
"No," Jack replied. "He has his own dorm. I've been wanting to kick him out, but now that you don't spend any time in Colin's old room, Pete's just kind of let himself in, and he's my friend and all."
"It doesn't matter, whatever you decide is fine," Avery said, a bit begrudgingly. Jack shrugged.
"We'll talk about it later, but for now," he pulled the bouquet of flowers from behind his back. "These are for you…happy three-month. Jasmine tells me you girls like to celebrate all of these anniversaries…I told her I'm sure you forgot but she insisted you wouldn't."
Avery laughed and took the bouquet, smelling them. Then, she raised her eyes to meet Jack's and let a slow smile spread over her face. "I didn't forget," she said coyly. Jack raised an eyebrow.
"Where's my present then?" he asked sarcastically. Avery remained smiling.
"Well," she started, "I was going to give it to you tonight…but with Pete there, I think it might be a little awkward." Jack's eyes widened at her suggestions and he shook his head.
"That's it, Pete's out!"
They laughed and Brandon returned from his bathroom break to find his favorite couple smiling. He knew it wouldn't take them long.
Twenty minutes later, they were still waiting for Kayla. She had gone into labor more than forty-five minutes ago, and it sounded as if it was going to be a painful one. Brandon had gone downstairs to the cafeteria to get them some food, and Avery blew a strand of hair out of her eyes, bored. Jack was looking up some website from his cell phone.
"Want to play a game of tic-tac-toe?" she finally asked. Jack looked at his cell phone, shrugged, and put it away. Happy for a distraction, she began drawing the squares on a corner of a napkin.
"I'll be O's," she declared, placing the first O in a corner. Jack responded with an X. Then another O and another X. Just as Avery was about to make her next move, Jack made a sudden declaration.
"I love you, Avery."
She was taken aback. Had she heard him correctly? She wasn't sure, but she thought he had just told her he loved her in the midst of their tic-tac-toe game. She sat up and looked him square in the eye. His stare was completely sincere, and even if she hadn't heard the words, his eyes repeated them over and over again. I love you, Avery.
It certainly wasn't the ideal place to be told such a heavy statement. After all, they were in Podunk Edamont, waiting on Avery's small-town friend to have a baby. They were sitting in the middle of a waiting room full of anxious relatives and moody pregnant women. Then again, it did beat a run-down bathroom at McQue's. She gave a mental shrug and beamed at him.
"I love you too, Jack Shanahan." With that, she placed and O in the bottom right hand corner, and put a line through the three consecutive O's, winning the game.