Empathy is a choice, and it’s a vulnerable choice. In order to connect with you, I have to connect with something in myself that knows that feeling. Brene Brown
“Make a lap.”
“Oh, you want a lap do you?”
Brett Hogan sat his book aside and picked up his six-year-old daughter, Emily, and plopped her in his lap. He danced his fingers along her sides. “You must want tickles.”
Emily shrieked and kicked her legs with abandon. “Stop it! Stop it!”
After a few more seconds, Brett stopped. He held her as she caught her breath. “So, what does one of the prettiest girls in the world want?”
“I have a question.”
“I was talking to Sara at school. She only has a mommy. How come I have a daddy and two mommies?”
It’s not like I didn’t know this was coming. “Hmm, that’s a good question. Let me think a moment.”
Melody put her hand behind Freya’s head and deepened the kiss. Holy Shit! Brett’s jaw dropped as Freya initiated the second phase. When the kiss broke Freya fanned her face with her hand.”Whew.”
Melody beamed up at her and licked her lips. “Strawberry chapstick, nice. Stay here while I go get the camera so we can take pictures of you meeting your niece for the first time.”
Brett waited until Melody left the hallway. “Sweetie, don’t start the car unless you’re willing to drive because she will sink her teeth into you if you let her.”
“Are you talking about me?”
“Just giving Freya fair warning.”
Melody stuck her tongue out. “Spoilsport. Go get Emily while I get Freya set up in the front room.”
When Brett entered the living room, Freya was sitting in a hard-backed chair with her back to him. Melody was standing in front of her with the camera.
“Freya, this is your niece Emily Hogan.”
“Aw, She’s so small.” She gathered her into her arms and kissed her forehead. “Hi, I’m your aunt Freya.”
Brett stood with his hand on Freya’s shoulder as Melody snapped pictures.
“Would you like to feed her while I finish dinner?”
“Brett, would you get her bottle? It’s on the counter. I want to get some more pics.”
Later that night, he stepped out of the bathroom after showering and nearly collided with Freya. “Sorry, I thought you were asleep.”
“I have some jet lag. What’s this?” Freya tapped a large bear paw tattoo over his heart.
“I got it a few months after you left. Besides Melody and the tattoo guy you are the only person to ever see it.”
Freya blushed. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to pry.”
“Don’t be silly. I trust you. You can always ask me anything. If I weren’t willing for you to see it, I’d have a shirt on.”
“What’s it mean?”
“I had an experience. I met Bear and this,” He tapped the tattoo, “means we walk together.”
Freya arched an eyebrow.
“Remember, I told you my friend Brian was helping me after Deirdra left.”
“The one who was always giving you books?”
Brett nodded. “He taught me a better way of living. I became a warrior and for me, this is part of it.”
“Here, let me show you something.” Brett took Freya’s hand and led her to the next room. “This is my office. Feel free to use it if I’m not busy. He pointed to a table in the corner that held candles, a small cactus, a few rocks, and incense. Across the front of them lay a deerskin bag. A small white pillow sat on the floor in front of it. “This is where I meditate, feel free to use it too. I do ask that you leave the bag alone. I’m happy to show you what’s in it. But, I don’t like others touching it without my express permission.”
“No problem. I’m not sure I understand, though.”
“In short, It means I’ve learned to be responsible for myself and the effect I have on the world.” He stepped close to her. “For example, When you refused to marry me. It hurt, but, it was okay. Do you know why?”
“Because I knew it was much more important that you, my best friend, were still my best friend and that you felt cherished by me. Having that made me able to deal with my disappointment.”
Freya hugged him. “Thank you.” She broke the hug. “Now, take your hot ass to bed before we get in trouble, Mr. I’m wearing nothing but a towel.”
Brett laughed. “Ok. But, just so you know, Melody gave us permission in writing. Want to see it?”
“Aargh, go to bed!”
A couple of nights later, Freya was feeding Emily as she talked with Brett and Melody.
Melody spoke. “Do you know that on our first date Brett told me and I quote: “If I get married my priorities will be my wife, my kids, and then her, in that order.” Unquote.” Melody pointed to herself, the baby, and Freya as she spoke.
Freya’s jaw dropped.”You told her that on your first date?”
Brett nodded. “It was true then and it’s true now. I told her because I don’t play games and I wasn’t going to waste time on somebody who wouldn’t accept our friendship.”
Freya dropped her eyes. “You humble me.” She whispered.
“Oh, don’t worry. I laid something on him too.” Melody blushed. “If you didn’t notice your first night here. I, uh, like girls.” She gulped and straightened her shoulders. “So, I told him that he had to accept that time to time I’m going to play.”
Freya laughed. “You guys are so bad. Oops, Em’s finished her bottle.”
Melody jumped up. “I’ll get her.” As she leaned over to take Emily from Freya, she gave the woman a quick kiss on the lips and sauntered away.
Freya sat there, her eyes wide.
Brett laughed. “I told you. She’ll sink her teeth into you if you let her.”
Melody’s voice came from the nursery. “I heard that.”
“If you’re not interested, tell her and she’ll stop.”
“Wait, You wouldn’t care?”
Brett pulled a worn piece of folded paper from his wallet and tossed it into Freya’s lap. “Read it.”
Freya opened the paper.
I, Melody Lynn Evanston give my permission to Brett Hogan to have a sexual relationship of any duration, at any time(s) of their choosing with and only with Freya Reynolds.
“I wrote it.”
Brett tapped the paper. “Look at the date.”
“It’s ... it’s the day before I moved home.”
Melody came in and knelt beside Freya. “I didn’t know you would be gone for two years. I saw how much you care for each other. How could I take that away? He accepts that I need my sweet lady kisses and I accept that he needs you. Speaking of sweet lady kisses, I know I can be tenacious. If I have offended you or made you uncomfortable. I’m sorry and I’ll stop.”
Freya stared at Melody for a long moment, then smiled. She grasped Melody’s head and pulled her into a hard kiss.
Holy Fuck! Am I dreaming? Brett sat forward.
Melody pushed herself up and onto Freya, covering her with her body. Freya shifted on the couch and pulled Melody down onto her. She moaned as Melody ground against her. “Oh, Fuck!” She whined as her body shook. Melody laughed and pushed herself up. “Somebody on a short fuse, sweetie?”
“Yes! Now, get back down here and finish what you started.”
Melody smirked. “It looks like I’ll be busy tonight.”
“I’ll leave you ladies to get better acquainted.” He kissed Melody. “Love you.”
“Love you, too.”
He kissed Freya.
She opened the kiss, slipping a hint of tongue into his mouth before retreating. He touched the tip of her nose. “I love you, too.”
She smiled. “I love you. Go away.”
He licked his lips.”You know, that strawberry chapstick does taste good.”
Melody laughed and goosed him as he turned to leave.
“I’ll take Em watch tonight.” He stopped by the towel closet. I know what I’m jacking off to.
Brett knocked on Freya’s bedroom door. “Breakfast in ten. Hurry or I’ll throw it out.”
He was putting bacon on the plates when Freya walked in.
“Good morning, did you sleep well?”
Freya smiled. “Not a fucking wink. Melody will be here in a second. She wanted to check on Emily.”
Brett chuckled. “Good, I’m glad you enjoyed yourself. Is that a bite mark?”
Freya blushed and ducked her eyes.
“You should see the ones she left on me.”
“Oh, I plan to right after breakfast. Eat wench. You’ll need the energy.”
“Is that so?”
Brett nodded evilly with a big grin on his face.
“See what I put up with. Do you want to help me with this brute? Between the two of us, he wouldn’t stand a chance.”
Freya’s eyes popped wide open. She took a bite of food.
“No worries, just know that you’re invited whenever, wherever.
Three hours later, they walked into the indoor flea market. Brett stopped. “There’s something calling me.” He waited. His head snapped to the left. “This way.” He took off. Halfway through the market, he stopped, tilted his head and sniffed the air. He spun on his heel and went down an aisle.
He stopped at a decrepit, overstocked booth and pointed. “What’s in that box?”
“May I look?”
The old man placed it on the counter.
Brett pulled out stained pants and ragged shirts and set them aside. Hello
Hi, Will you take away from here?
Brett lifted the bear cub skull out of the box. “How much?”
“Son, that old thing isn’t worth anything. You can get something really nice on the next aisle over.”
“Ten and you take the entire box.”
Brett carefully repacked the skull and paid the man.
“What was that about?
“I’ll tell you at home, Freya. Let me run this to the car and we’ll go get some cheesy fries at the grill.”
“Get Em’s diaper bag. I forgot it.”
As he walked, he talked with his new friend. My name is Brett. What’s yours?
You can’t pronounce it. What would you like to call me?
Um ... How about Chris?
Chris? I like it.
Chris, it is. I’m going to put you in the car while the ladies and I look around. When we get home I’m going to clean you up and then I have a nice place by my altar for you to stay. Ok?
Brett loaded Chris into the car.
Ok, don’t forget that bag.
Two weeks later, Brett and Freya were cuddling on the couch. He kissed Freya and rested his forehead against hers. “I want to make love with you.” He caressed the side of her face. “I love you and I know you love me.”
She gave the slightest shake of her head. “I won’t break up your marriage.”
Glass shattered. Melody stormed into the living room, her face red and twisted with anger. “I OUGHT TO BEAT YOU!”
“I’VE DONE EVERYTHING EXCEPT RIP YOUR CLOTHES OFF AND THROW YOU INTO HIS ARMS!” Melody took a deep breath and spoke through clenched teeth. “I’m tired of it. For two and a half weeks, you’ve done nothing but made moon eyes at him when you thought we weren’t looking. Get off your ass and take OUR man to your room and make love with him. If I don’t see two happy, satiated, people in the morning hell unimaginable will rain down.” She stomped out. A second later, a door slammed.
“I guess she told me.”
“I’ve never seen her that mad,” Brett whispered. He stood. “Freya, I’ll talk to her.”
Freya grabbed his hand. “No, she’s right. Will you come to my room?”
“To make love or have sex?”
Her eyes brimmed with tears. “Love.”
About a month later, Brett headed down the hall toward his office. The sound of quiet sobbing from Freya’s room caught his attention.
Knock, knock. “Are you okay?” He cracked open the door. Freya, curled on the bed, was sobbing into a pillow.”
He put his arms around her. “Honey, what’s wrong.”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” She kept repeating, her voice filled with hysteria.
Ice water flooded his veins. Brett screamed, “MELODY!” He pulled Freya into his arms. “I’ve got you.”
“Oh, shit.” Melody jumped across the room and molded herself to Freya. “Sweetie, what’s wrong?”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
Melody stroked her face. “It’s ok, tell me so I can help you.”
“What’s hurting you?”
“Em ... Emily.”
Oh ... I didn’t think about that.
“I don’t understand. How’s Emily hurting you?”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” Freya wrapped her arms around herself and rocked as she cried.
Brett tapped Melody’s shoulder. He mouthed. “She can’t have children.”
Melody’s eyes teared, “I’ve got this. Let me take care of it.”
Brett kissed Freya’s cheek. “Talk with Melody. I’ll be in the other room. Ok?”
How could I be such a dumbass? He went to his office. After lighting the altar’s candles and incense, He sat and picked up a tiny hand drum. He closed his eyes and played. Under his voice, he began to sing.
“I sing a song. A healing song. For I call to you. Bear, I call.”
“I sing a song. A healing song. For I call to you. Bear, I call.”
“I sing a song. A healing song. For I call to you. Bear, I call.”
The sound of the drum and his own voice lulled Brett into calmness. He opened his inner eyes. Tall, dew drenched trees shrouded in the morning fog surrounded him. The scent of the rich loam of the forest floor wafted around him. Brett shivered as a cool wind kissed his skin.
Bear was digging into an old log. Brett sat on it.
Bear pulled up a sliver of wood and licked under it. “Grubs. Want some?”
“Thank you.” Brett pulled off a piece of bark and sucked the grubs into his mouth. He crushed them against the roof of his mouth and swallowed. The bitter juices spread heat and well being through him.
Bear rested his massive paws on the log. “What is troubling you, cub?”
“I hurt someone.”
“Well, it’s like this.”
When Brett finished, Bear rested his head on his paws and closed his eyes.
Brett waited for an hour. A nap? Really? He braced himself to stand.
Bear laughed. “Patience, cub.” Bear stood and yawned. “Her injuries are beyond my power to heal. Talk to Bernie’s friend, he can help.” He lumbered toward a nearby tree. “She will sleep tonight. I can ease the fever of her heart but, only you and your other mate can heal her. If you are willing to pay the price.”
Bear kept going.
Brett met Melody as he left his office. She hugged him. “You’re amazing.”
“What’s that for?”
“Freya heard you drumming and asked what it was.”
No way, she couldn’t have heard that. Bear’s laughter filled his mind.
“I told her you were praying for her. She put her head on my shoulder. A few minutes later, she was asleep. I was coming to check on Emily and tell you I’m staying with her tonight. I don’t want her waking up alone.”
Brett bent to kiss her. “You’re a good friend. I have to go see Brian.”
“It’s after midnight.”
“He’ll see me.”
“Is Brian gay?”
“What brought that on?”
“Every time you talk about Brian you talk about a fellow named Bernie.”
Brett strangled back a laugh as tears came to his eyes.
Brett walked away flapping his hand in the air behind him. Once, he was in his car he howled and beat his steering wheel. “Oh god, Oh god.”
Two days later, they entered a small office. “Dr. Michaels, Thank you for seeing us.”
He smiled, “Don’t thank me. Thank Brian. Normally, you’d have to wait nine months to see me, if you could afford me, most can’t.”
Melody arched an eyebrow at Brett. “Brian?”
“Let me show you something.” Dr. Michaels rolled up his right sleeve and held up his forearm. A large patch of shiny, melted skin covered it. “Seven years ago, I was trapped in a car fire.” His voice caught, “I was burning. I don’t know how he did it. He literally ripped the door off and pulled me out. Anything Brian wants Brian gets. Plus, he said he’d give me two bottles of his homemade apple wine. You can’t buy it that good.”
He unrolled his sleeve. “Shall we get started?” He gestured to the chairs by his desk and sat down. He opened the file. “Mrs. Reynolds.”
“Freya, I have some bad news and possibly some good news, ok?”
Freya gripped Brett’s and Melody’s hands and nodded.
“You have advanced hydrosalpinx. That means your tubes are permanently blocked. It’s a result of an infection from your assault.”
Freya’s face clouded. “I ... I”
Dr. Michaels held up his hand. “Wait, I said there was some good news. But, we have to go over this part first. Ok?”
“Due to the physical injuries, you can’t carry a child. However, there’s an excellent chance your eggs are viable. So, the odds are, you CAN have children, but it will be expensive.”
“I can? I can be a mother?”
Dr. Michaels nodded.
Brett caught Freya as she pitched forward. “Oh shit, she fainted.”
“She’ll be alright in a minute. I’ll go get some water for her.”
Freya opened her eyes, “What happened?”
Brett kissed her. “You got some really good news.”
“Here you go.” Dr. Michaels handed Freya an opened water bottle.
Freya took a drink.
“Do you need my nurse to check you out?”
Freya shook her head.
“Ok, let’s continue. Like I was saying, You can be a mother, but we will have to use In Vitro Fertilization, a sperm donor, and a surrogate mother. Unfortunately, Like I said, it will be expensive.”
“Let me throw a calculator on it.” After a few minutes of studying her file and some furious punching on a calculator, He looked up. “I estimate one hundred and ninety-five thousand. I’m willing to waive my fee of sixty-thousand. So that brings us to one hundred and thirty-five thousand. A lot of that goes to the surrogate.”
“What if we eliminated the surrogate fee?”
“Well, Mrs. Hogan, If Freya had someone willing to do it and the proper prenatal care given. I’d say that we could bring the fee down to just a little over eighty.”
Melody looked at Brett.
“We’ll talk about it.”
“What?” Freya’s head snapped around.
“I said Melody and I will discuss whether or not she will offer to be your surrogate. No promises, but we’ll discuss it.”
Freya launched herself at Melody, crying.
Brett rubbed her back. “Doctor, not that we’re ungrateful, but why would you waive your fee?”
“Because of Brian I got to hold my first grandchild. There’s no amount of money that equals that. He wants me to help Mrs.Reynolds, so I help.” He nodded at the women. “As soon as they calm down, we’ll finish up.”
Brett sat back against the headboard. “I know she doesn’t have to work if she doesn’t want to but, I don’t think she can afford it.”
“Could we help?”
“We might be able to come up with half but, that’s about it. Right now, the most important thing to decide if we want to do this.”
“I think, I’m willing to do it. The surrogate part anyway.”
Brett sighed. “That’s the part that bothers me. Bear told me we could heal her heart if we are willing to pay the price. I’m not sure I can.”
“Why would my being a surrogate upset you?”
Brian shuddered. “The thought of another man’s seed being in my wife is sickening. I don’t know if I can stand watching you grow another man’s baby. I might have to.”
Melody hugged him. “We don’t have to do this.”
“It doesn’t work that way. If you’re not willing to die for someone, then you’re not their friend. This is a type of death. Am I her friend if I allow her to keep suffering when all I have to do is agree?”
“What if you’re the donor? Would you be ok with that?”
He looked at her. “I can’t ask that of you.”
“The thought scares me. I know you love her and I’m afraid you’d leave me and Emily to be with her if you had a child together.”
Brett’s eyes flared and he went rigid, Melody flinched. “Never say that to me or about me again. I am not that kind of man.”
“You can be scary, you know that right?”
He hugged her. “I’m sorry. I never mean to scare you or hurt you. Forgive me.”
She kissed his nose. “Of course.”
“Do you love Freya?”
“You’re crazy if you think I would even consider carrying some other bitch’s baby. Of course, I love her.”
“No. I’m asking if you’re in love with her.”
“In love? I’m definitely in deep like. It wouldn’t take much to push me over the edge.”
“Do you like her living with us?”
“Why don’t we marry her? I mean, we both sleep with her and we like having her here. Why not make it official?”
Melody’s jaw dropped. “Um ... um ... damn. Um, isn’t that illegal?”
“Technically, only two state marriages at the same time is illegal. Brian could do a religious service and we could do some legal stuff that gives all three of us the same rights. Think about it. We would be one family and the baby could be a symbol of our love rather than something that creates all of this stress.”
Melody’s eyes twinkled. “You just want a threesome.”
“See, we could even have threesomes! What’s not to love?”
Melody laughed. “You told me that a shaman has the right to think about something for three days before making a decision, right?”
“I want three days to think about this.”
“Absolutely. I’ll tell Freya we’ll give her a decision in five.”
Five days later, Brett and Melody led Freya to the dining room table, seating her between them. Melody went to the kitchen and brought out a strawberry cheesecake and plates. After serving them, She sat back beside Freya with her own plate.
Brett cleared his throat. He took Freya’s hand, Melody took her other. “You know we love you, right?”
Freya nodded. “I love you guys, too.”
“We’ve decided to help you have your baby. We can come up with thirty-five thousand dollars if you need it. Melody will be your surrogate if you want her to.”
A slow trickle of tears flowed down Freya’s high cheeks, dropping to spatter on her plate. “Thank you.”
“There’s even more. If you’ll accept us, we want to marry you.”
Freya’s jaw dropped. “What?”
Melody reached under her shirt and pulled out a small rectangular box and opened it. “We had our wedding rings melted down to make three rings, one for each of us. Look.” she picked one of the rings. “Each of our rings has our initials engraved on it. This is Brett’s.” The ring had FBM engraved on the inner band. Melody put it back and picked another. “This one is yours.” She held it so the light showed the BFM on the band. She put it back and grabbed the last one. “Mine.” The letters BMF were on it. “On each, we’re the center of attention of the other two. This is what we want with you.”
Brett squeezed her hand. “We want us to be a family, a real family. We want to share our custodial rights of Emily with you. We want your name on everything we own. We want your child to be a part of all three of us.”
“Wait, wait, slow down. Are you saying that I have to do this to have a baby?”
He shook his head. “No, we love you and wouldn’t do that. This isn’t a blackmail, It’s our hope. We are committed to helping you, either way. We WANT you to stay with us and I WANT to have a child with you.”
“Freya, Brett’s telling the truth. If you just want me to be a surrogate using some sperm donor, I will. I WANT to spend my life with you and Brett raising our children and loving each other.” Melody kissed her. “Please, marry us, please.”
Freya took the ring box from Melody and cradled it in her hands. “You want me so much that you melted your rings so I can have one?”
“This is for forever? No changing our minds a year or two from now?”