“Your mother?!” Alice exclaimed. “I thought she was dead!”
Hackett chuckled. “Trust me, she’s still very much alive, and she very much wants to meet you.”
“Oh no,” Alice groaned. “I have a mother-in-law? Why didn’t you tell me this before?”
“I didn’t realize that you assumed she was dead.” He was far too amused over Alice’s anguish.
“Then why did we elope at the courthouse? Why didn’t we have a real ceremony so your mother could be there?” she asked.
“Because I wanted to bring you home as my wife, and I didn’t want to waste any time.”
Alice scowled at his grin. “It’s not funny! I thought we did that because neither of us had families.”
“Don’t worry, she won’t be here for a full week. There’s plenty of time to get ready.”
“But … Alicia …” Alice bit her lip and looked away.
“Then she must think that I’m a trollop too!”
Hackett placed his hand under her chin to direct her gaze to meet his own. “No. Not at all.”
“But how can you know that?” Alice trembled. “What if she thinks I’m not good enough for you? What if she doesn’t like me at all?”
“Darling!” Hackett pulled her into an embrace as he laughed slightly. “I told my mother about you months ago – including the fact that you were already pregnant – and she gave me her blessing to marry you. You have nothing to worry about. If it helps at all, we can go meet your mother, too.”
“No way! I don’t want to see my mom.” Alice protectively cuddled her baby closer. “I don’t want my mom to know anything.”
“When was the last time you spoke to her?” Hackett asked.
“Not since I ran away.” Alice shook her head. “Trust me, it’s better this way.”
“You don’t think she should know that she has a granddaughter?”
“Nope! Not at all.”
“Hm.” Hackett grunted slightly as he began to stroke Alice’s hair, his brow creased slightly as he thought.
“My mom would think that you were way too old for me,” she added, watching his face closely.
“Yes, so don’t go kicking at hornet nests.”
That broke Hackett out of his reverie, and he laughed as he took the baby from Alice and patted her back. “I suppose you’re right, Mrs. Alice Hackett. We’ll let this one slide, for now.”
“Basil …” Alice hesitated, uncertain of how to phrase what she wanted to say. “Are we going to have more children together?”
“I hope so.”
“Then …” Alice couldn’t bring herself to say it out loud. She could still feel his hands on her hips, and the way his body had pushed against hers. While she didn’t begrudge her daughter for waking up, she wondered what would have happened if the baby had continued sleeping peacefully. Truth was, because of her history, she was terrified of expressing her desire to become more physically intimate with her husband.
But he hoped that they would have more children together, which did imply that one day they would consummate their marriage. After all, it was still too soon after giving birth for them to go ‘all the way,’ so to speak, and Alice took comfort in the thought.
“Alicia will always have a place in our family, right? She won’t be the black sheep?” she asked.
“I’m sure that we’ll both do our best to prevent that from happening. And really, you shouldn’t be worried about meeting my mother. The reason why I had a hard time convincing her to give us time to settle in together is because of our baby; she’s thrilled to finally have a grandchild, and is worried about missing out on the newborn phase.”
“I guess you took long enough on getting around to it, she’s decided that any baby will do, huh?” Alice stuck her tongue out at him. “I’m just terrified of being criticized as a slut, that’s all.”
“Alice …” Hackett lowered his voice. “You were young and vulnerable, but not a slut. I don’t think of you that way, and neither does my mother – but you are the one who’s having a hard time letting that idea go.”
She looked down and hugged herself. “You don’t know–”
Hackett cut her off. “I know enough. Remember what you learned about dignity? Another part of that is being able to forgive yourself when you realize your mistakes, instead of endlessly punishing yourself for them.”
Alice remained quiet. She tried to focus on staring out the kitchen window, but she couldn’t resist the temptation to watch Hackett holding her baby in his strong arms. She thought about what he had said about Alicia being more his than anyone else’s, and grudgingly admitted to herself that she was the one who kept bringing up the fact that he wasn’t really the father. It was an issue that she needed to let go of, instead of constantly pushing it between them.
“Your mom is really excited then?” she asked slowly.
“I don’t really like the fact that I don’t have any clothes that fit me. I mean, that suit my personality and all. I can’t figure out what Mrs. Alice Hackett would wear.”
“How about you stop trying to think of yourself as a character, and just buy whatever tickles your fancy?” he suggested. “I’ll spend some time with Alicia so you can think without interruptions. Did you finish the online shopping you had started earlier?”
“No, not really. It’s been kind of a crazy day, I guess.”
“Go on, then. You can have the bedroom to yourself.”
Alice hesitated and asked, “Will you be all right?”
“She’s wickedly cute, but she doesn’t have any teeth, so I think I’ll be able to hold my own against the baby.”
Alice wrinkled the bridge of her nose. “You can be such a jerk sometimes, you know that?”
“I can’t help but feel that, as your husband, it is my duty to cause you grief in new and unexpected ways.” Hackett winked and chuckled.