It was a profound relief when Damon went to prison. Alice felt better rested than she had in a long time, especially with the threat of another parental visit over and done with for good. The last one had been such a train wreck, she wasn’t at all sure if she had it in her to see Damon again. When she heard of what had happened to Miranda, that she had lost her job as a criminal lawyer after being accused of extortion and testing positive for drug use, Alice knew in her heart that it had been Damon’s doing. Despite herself, she felt a strong kinship with Miranda because of their similar misfortunes at his hands, and every day she waited for the call or text that never came.
Hackett’s adoption of Alicia was finalized, and they officially changed her last name to his – Gertie even brought over a cake to celebrate. It was a small party, but it was wonderful. Alice had put a headband with a big flower on Alicia’s head, then took numerous pictures of Hackett holding the baby before asking Gertie to get one of the three of them together. Later, she had it printed, to put in a frame and hang in the living room, where she could see it and think about how happy she was to have her little family.
Kate came to stay with them again for the holidays, and listened intently as Alice relayed the story of everything that had happened since the last time they had seen each other, both of them working with balls of yarn and passing the baby back and forth through the conversation. She made all the right exclamations at the right moments, and was particularly concerned when Alice briefly described the way Damon had treated her during his one visit. It was strange to realize just how distorted her relationship with Damon had been, how detached she had been from reality during that time, and it made her uncomfortable. She wondered what Hackett must have thought of her when their relationship had first begun to form, and she had been overcome with gratitude at the normalcy of it. Now she casually spent the day sitting in the living room, chatting with her mother-in-law as she worked on her knitting and cared for her baby, reveling in how wonderful it felt to feel safe and secure.
The best moment came when Kate and Gertie conspired to borrow Hackett’s car to take Alice to a salon, where they minded her baby for her while the bleached part of her hair was dyed brown to match her natural color. To top it off, her makeup was done professionally, and the two older women presented her with a gorgeous lace dress for her to wear on a special date. When she paired it with the shawl that Gertie had given her, she felt every bit like a beautiful princess when she looked at herself in the mirror. That evening, Kate took Alicia over to Gertie’s, while Alice waited for Hackett to return home from work. As soon as she heard a car pull up in front of the house, she ran to the door and watched as he bid farewell to Dr. Westley after thanking him for the ride.
Hackett paused as soon as he saw her, then broke into a grin as his eyes gleamed. “Why hello, there,” he called as he walked up the steps. “Who’s this gorgeous girl in my house?”
“It’s the one and only, Mrs. Alice Hackett,” she answered, then squealed as Hackett swept her up in his arms.
“My favorite person,” he purred as he kissed her. “Your hair is gorgeous.”
“My amazing mother-in-law helped with it,” Alice replied, wrapping her arms around Hackett’s neck. “Do you want to take me out tonight?”
“Sure do.” But despite what he said, Hackett stepped inside the house and kicked the door shut. “Where’s the baby?”
“You’ll never guess, but I have discovered that there’s this thing called babysitting.” Alice giggled. “Apparently, it’s possible to let someone else watch Alicia for awhile.”
“I love the sound of that,” Hackett said, and he carried Alice to the bedroom.
Alice sat in the bathroom with her eyes closed, a pregnancy test held tightly between her fingers. She had been feeling unusually tired for the last week with a picky appetite that came and went, and the thought of having another baby was both exciting and terrifying. When she felt that she shouldn’t put it off any longer, she opened her eye for a peek.
Hackett was waiting for her in the bedroom, playing with Alicia so that she squealed with laughter and kicked her legs, her eyes shining brightly as she watched him between rounds of tickles. Alice hung back behind the door frame for a few seconds to enjoy the scene, feeling as if her heart could burst. When she entered, he looked up expectantly and asked, “Well?”
Alice bit her lip as a big grin spread across her face, and she knew that her reaction was giving the answer away. She couldn’t think of anything coy or clever to say, so she blurted out, “I’m pregnant.”
He sprang to embrace her tightly, showering numerous kisses on her face as he murmured, “I’m so glad.”
“Alicia’s still only six months old, though,” Alice said, looking at her baby sitting on the bed with a frown. “They’ll only be fifteen months apart, and that’s awfully close together.”
Hackett stiffened as his face twisted with concern. “Do you not want it?”
“Of course I do!” Alice placed her hands protectively over her stomach. “I’m just a little scared is all, because I didn’t realize I could get pregnant again this fast. But I do want this baby very badly, and I want it to have your eyes and look just like you.”
He relaxed and chuckled as he stroked her hair and kissed her forehead. “We’ll be more careful next time. Besides, you have Gertie to help you, and my mom will love any excuse to stay with us for awhile, so I’m sure that you won’t have any troubles at all.”
“You’re right. I’m a tough sort, you know, so I’ll get through it.” Alice beamed. “We should give this baby a name that’s similar to yours …” she mused, then snickered slightly as she said, “Like Oregano.”
“Anise, if its a girl,” Hackett replied jovially, taking Alice’s hand as they moved to sit on the bed next to Alicia.
“Ooo, that’s really pretty. We should do that.” Alice picked Alicia up and bounced her as she sang, “You’re going to be a big sister already!”
Alicia grabbed a handful of Alice’s hair and pulled it with a squeal.
“She’s excited,” Hackett laughed, as Alice carefully untangled strands from little fingers.
When she was finished, she gushed, “They’ll be so cute together! I bet that they’ll be the best of friends, and do absolutely everything together like two peas in a pod. Won’t that be the most adorable thing ever? I can knit matching things for them, too. Oh my gosh, this is super exciting!” She snuggled up against him, and whispered, “You’re finally going to have a baby of your own.”
“That is nice,” Hackett replied, wrapping his arms around Alice as they settled down comfortably together. “You’re quite beautiful when you’re pregnant, and I’m not going to pretend like I haven’t been aching to knock you up.”
“I think I noticed, you randy old goat.” Alice giggled. “But don’t stop, because I don’t want to be out of practice for when we decide to go for number three.”
“I solemnly promise to never slack off with my husbandly duties.”
She teased, “Good. As your pregnant wife, I have every intention of being as high maintenance as possible, just to keep you on your toes while I’m busy making your baby. It’s the least that I can do.”
“I look forward to it.” Hackett laughed. “But beware, if you go too far I just might have to start working overtime.”
“You wouldn’t!” Alice stuck out her tongue at him. “You’re the responsible one around here, so you have to make sure that I’m getting enough nutrition and rest so our baby will be healthy. Some foot rubs will be nice too, to help our baby grow, of course.”
“I can’t argue with that.” He gave Alice a slow, sweet kiss, then whispered, “I love you, Mrs. Alice Hackett.”
Alice and Hackett cuddled together with their baby, cozy and happy, as they made their plans for the future.