"I'm going to beg." I admit. Eliza leaned forward on her elbows with wide eyes.
"Are you serious?!" She exclaimed as quietly as she could. I'm sure my face showed my heartbreak as I looked at her.
"I don't have a choice. I have to beg them or else I won't be there when Kynzlee's born." It was going to kill me to suck up to Addison's parents after all of this but I've learned these past 8 months that 'I have to do what I have to do' as the old saying goes.
"You can't just let them win like that! You can't just roll over!" She said, but I slammed my palms on the table.
"It's not about winning right now Eliza!" I yell. Everyone in the cafeteria was staring in our direction. I settle back in my seat and sigh. "Sorry." I apologize, her face softens and shakes her head to indicate it's ok and Bonzo reaches across to pat my shoulder comfortingly. "I just- I want to be there for Addison too. She's going to be in so much pain." I trail off as my thoughts shift to worry.
"You're right." Eliza sighed. "You have to be there. No matter what it takes." She said offering me a sad smile. "I'll help you however I can."
"Thanks." I smile, then lean forward. "I need you to convince them to meet with me." Her jaw hangs on its hinges.
"You want me to do what now?" She asked as if she didn't hear me.
"Convince them to meet with me." I say again. She waved her hands dramatically.
"I heard what you said! But how exactly do you expect me to do that?! They don't like me anymore than they like you!" She argued. I raised a brow at her skeptically however and she pouted. "Ok, maybe they do like me more than they like you. But still! They don't like me!"
"Please, Eliza! I know you can convince them. You're the smartest person I know. They won't listen to Addison. Plus if she mentions me, they'll figure out we've been talking." I finish and fold my arms on the table and bury my face in my forearms. "Dear Z, this whole situation is so fucked." I groan. Eliza reaches across and pats my arm.
"You know I'll try my best, Zed. I just don't know how much they will be willing to listen." She said. I lift my head and nod, knowing she's right. This could just be a complete waste of time. But we have to try. Addison due date is getting closer and closer. Each night I talk to her she's getting more and more uncomfortable. So we need to move fast.
I anxiously wait in the Zombies Light Garden for Eliza to find out what they said to his proposal. She walks in and I jump up from my seat on the platform. Her face looks upset, like a mix between sad and mad. My hope drops to my feet and my whole body deflates. Eliza's eye meet mine.
"Tomorrow. 10 am at the coffee shop in Seabrook." She said plainly. I gasp and my shoulders raise from their slumped position.
"What?! Really?!" I exclaim excitedly. This was great! At least I have a chance to plead with them.
"I just wouldn't get your hopes up too high, Bud. You don't even want to know some of the things they were saying." Eliza said, walking up and placing a hand on my shoulder. I couldn't care less what nasty things they said about me.
"If I have to get down and bed on my knees, I'm gonna do it. I don't care what I have to do! I have to be there for my girls." I explain. Eliza smiled sadly and nods.
"I really hope they agree with you." She says supportively. With this good news, I'm filled with adrenaline. I hug Eliza tight for a split second before she can hit me and run off hooting and hollering with excitement.
I barely slept that night. When I told Addison, she was scared for me. But I assured her I just wanted to convince them for one day. For her and our baby.
I was dressed in my best coveralls and sitting at the café a whole hour early, sipping a coffee while my leg bounced nervously and my eyes constantly glancing up at the door in anticipation. A big pink gift bag tucked beside my chair. Almost on the dot of 10 o'clock, in walk Addison's Mom and Dad.
"Hey! Good morning! How are you?" I stand to greet them with a wave. Then extending my hand to shake but they just looked at it. I lower it after not getting any reciprocation. "Ok, um, would you guys like a coffee? My treat!" I offer with a smile. Their eyebrows raise in surprise.
"Oh? How are you paying?" Missy asks. I scratch the back of my head nervously.
"I took up a side job after I get out of school." I admit. Dale then speaks up.
"I have noticed you weren't playing on the football team anymore. Is that how you're spending your free time now?" He asks in surprise. I nod my head then gesture for them towards the counter. They order their coffees and we sit back at the table.
"Thank you for meeting with me. I really appreciate your time." I start. Both of them are sitting with their backs straight and staring at me with guarded eyes, but they nod so I continue. "I just wanted to ask for a one day pass. Just for my daughter's birth." They exchange a look. And I quickly continue. "I really wanna be there for Addison too! I love them both so much."
My voice cracked with my last word and I cleared my throat to re-steady myself. I go to elaborate more but Missy raises a hand to stop me. My chest clenches. Is she about to deny me?
'I'll get down and grovel if I have to.' I think to myself. 'I have to be there.'
"We've actually been talking about this. You have shown interest in being in her life once the restraining order is lifted." Missy says, then Dale chimes in.
"And we commend you for that, at least." He adds, I guess as a compliment? I nod eagerly none the less.
'Of course I want to be in their lives!' I want to scream but I refrain and let them continue.
"We haven't discussed it with Addison yet, if she would want you in the delivery room," I scoff to myself but don't say anything, "but we have decided not to press charges if you are there for the baby's birth." Missy finishes and my heart almost beats. My face breaks out in a wide smile.
"Really?! You mean it?!" I clarify to make sure this isn't some sick joke. They both nod and I don't hesitate to jump out of my seat and rush over to hug them both, even if they don't particularly like it. I don't care. They are letting me be with Addison while she's in labor and birthing my daughter!
"Ok ok! That's enough of that." Missy says brushing off her shoulders as she stands along with her husband.
"Oh!" I exclaim, hurrying back to my chair across the table and grabbing the gift bag. I reach it towards them and Missy takes it. "Can you give this to Addy for me? I got the baby a few things." I shrug then smile.
"Sure." She says. Then they both turn to head for the exit but pauses a few feet away and turns back to me. "You'll get a phone call when she's in labor. Don't miss it." She says.
"Wouldn't for the world." I assure her. She quirks a brow at me and hums an acknowledgment then continues out the door.
Once the door is closed behind them, I turn slowly and exclaim, "Who's the Zombie? I'm the Zombie! Yes!" The patrons of the café give me some strange looks but I don't really care what they think. This meeting went better than I honestly could have ever expected. I get to support Addison and see our daughter's birth first hand! And I am pumped!
My parents come home from their meeting with Zed that I'm not supposed to know about and I half dread hearing the verdict. I'm sitting in the kitchen nibbling on a bowl of fruits when they walk in.
"Addison, Honey!" My mom calls.
"Kitchen!" I call back. They come in behind me and I know they're about to tell me one way or the other when they immediately take the seats beside me. "How are you feeling dear?" Mom asks.
"Fine...?" I answer suspiciously. My mom softly smiled and lightly started to rub my shoulder closest to her.
"Honey, who do you want to have in the delivery room with you while you're in labor?" She asks.
Without a second hesitation, "Zed." I say firmly and outright. Their expressions don't really seem surprised by my answer.
"Ok." Mom says. My eyes widen and my mouth drops open.
"Ok?" I ask for clarity. She nods and smiles softly at me. My face lights up. "Really?!" Both of them smile and nod. I squeal excitedly and, as best as I can with a giant baby belly, throw myself at her for a hug.
"I'm getting a lot of this today." She mutters.
"What?" I ask, pretending I don't know Zed probably gave her a huge hug too. She quickly shook her head.
"Nothing Dear!" She denies. I don't push for it, instead jumping up to give my dad a quick hug and heading towards the stair for my room. "Oh, Addy!" Mom stops me.
"Yeah?" I pause. She walks to the front door and picks up a big pink gift bag and hands it to me.
"Zed sent this for you." She says. I gently take the bag and hold it against me.
'I have to act like I don't know.' I tell myself. "Zed was here?" I ask aloud. She shakes her head.
"No Honey. We met with him this morning. He asked if he could be there for Kynzlee's birth. We agreed as long as you wanted him there." She said, her face looking hesitant but, when she saw my eyes sparkle, also glad that I was happy.
"Thank you Mom. Really. It means a lot." I thank her with tears forming in my eyes. Zed is going to be there when our daughter is born! My heart feels like a weight is lifted off it. The worry of this whole 8 months if he'd be there vanishing in seconds.
"Don't cry Addy." She says wiping a stray tear away from my cheek. "We love you and want what's best for you." She said with a smile. The phrase made my heart a little bitter.
'Zed is what's best for me.' I think, but don't dare say in fear of them changing their minds. I just nod my agreement and head up the stairs.
Once I'm in the sanctuary of my room, I open the gift Zed put together for me. It was filled to the brim. Just looking in the top, I can see a lot of clothes but I pull out the card first, it feels thick. When I open it, over two thousand dollars falls out onto my lap. I stare down at the money for a minute in shock then look back to read the card.
I'm sure you've noticed the money I'm sending you. It's for you to spend how you see fit when Kynzlee is born. For you or her. Anything that's mine is yours and I want you to spend it however you want. I'll keep sending you whatever I make more regularly when she's here. And man, can I not wait till she's here! I'm so excited to meet her Addy. I already love her almost as much as I love you.
I bought her some new clothes and also sent some hand-me-downs for Zoey. I thought you might like them too. We can give her a little zombie swag! Sorry, I couldn't help myself. Anyways, keep our baby girl safe and healthy for me, ok?
I love you, Zed'
I smile and giggle as I read his letter. Picking up the money and setting it safely beside me before pulling out the contents of the gift bag. There was quite a bit of the traditional Seabrook pastel pink or purple baby clothes but also some traditional Zombie coverall baby clothes. I couldn't help but gush over how cute the customized clothing was. It was like what Zed or Zoey would wear but literally a fraction of the size.
I huge one of them to my chest and start to cry again. This time tears of joy instead of sadness. For the first time this whole pregnancy, I feel like things are going to be ok. Zed will be with me when I'm in labor to support me and see our daughter for her first moments of life. I'm sure it's from my hormones but the tears won't stop flowing. I wait for the sun to set before calling him.
"Hey Baby!" Zed answered happily. "Did you hear the great news?" I'm still crying and he suddenly realized I'm a sniffling mess. "Hey! What's wrong? Did something happen? Are you ok?!" He asked in a panic. I giggle through my sniffs.
"Yeah, I've just been so happy today." I say softly. He sighs heavily in relief.
"Me too Addy. Have you been crying all day?" He asks gently.
"Mhm." I admit.
"Please stop. I hate it when you cry." He comforts me. I giggle and wipe my eyes.
"Thanks for the gifts. You know you didn't have to." I tell him, but he chuckles.
"Yes I did. I gotta take care of my family." He says with pride.
"Thank you Zed." I whisper with a small smile on my lips.
"I love you Addy." He says in reply.
"I love you too."
It's Thursday. One week and two days after her due date.
Day after day, I've been checking my Z-band about a million times at school. Anxiously awaiting the phone call that said I could come be with my family. This whole week has dragged. Eliza is the first to say something.
"You really need to stop worrying. You're not gonna miss the call." She assures me. I sighed and lay my forehead flat against the lunch table.
"I know!" I groan loudly. "What if they forget to call me and I don't get there in time? Addy will think I abandoned her!" Bree took the opportunity to reach across and place a hand on my forearm. I glance up at her.
"Don't worry Zed! If they forget, Addy has me on speed dial so I can tell you the minute she contacts me!" Bree says happily. I smile and nod. At least my friends have my back.
It's Friday. One week and three days after her due date.
We're all back at our usual spots at the lunch table, Addy's seat, as always, is vacant beside me. I'm slightly more relaxed after our conversation yesterday. I know if something happens one of them will relay the message to me. For once, I'm actually laughing along with the conversation rather than tapping my foot and checking my wrist.
Bonzo is juggling some apples and Eliza's trying every trick in the book to make him drop one, without touching him.
Suddenly, my wrist vibrates. I look down and see DALE flashing across my screen. I'm frozen for a second. Then Bree's phone goes off.
"Oh shit! This is real!" I exclaim, swiping the screen to answer the call. "Hello?"
"We are taking Addison to the hospital. Her water just broke. You should really wait until school is over until you come here. I will text you her room number." Dale said. I had already grabbed my bag and started walking for the exit with all our friends following close behind.
"I think I'll just leave now. But if I'm not there, please do text the room number. Thanks." I respond slightly less flat than what he had given me. I was too giddy to see Addison.
"Oh kay." He drawled. "I guess we will be seeing you soon then." He finished.
"Yup." I said then hung up. Bree is bubbling to Bonzo about how good Addy sounded over the phone. Eliza comes up beside me.
"So, are you ready to be a dad?" She teased, elbowing my arm. I chuckle and rub my offended appendage.
"So ready!" I reply enthusiastically.