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Three days later, Katie went back to the cemetery. This time she wasn't terrified. This time, she hadn't come to die, she'd come to celebrate a life.
She knelt down beside the grave, then pulled Monroe down beside her. "She was born at 21 weeks. The doctors told us that there was nothing they could do and all the machines and wires were just delaying inevitable. They told us that we could either leave her in the incubator and she would live a few more days, or we could choose to turn the machines off and hold her and let nature take its course. I chose to hold her. I just thought that, whatever time she had here, she deserved to be loved and held and to know that, no matter the circumstances that got her here, we really wanted her. So they took everything off and brought us into the nursery. Tommy and I, his parents, Aunt Marie, and Nick. When the nurse handed her to me," Katie stopped to wipe away tears.
Monroe put his arms around her and pulled her against his chest.
"Tommy lost it. His dad had to drag him out to the hall to get it together. I did too. Nick held me up while I held her. She was so tiny. She didn't fill up my hands. I remember counting ten little fingers, ten little toes. It just didn't register that that beautiful little baby wouldn't be coming home with us. Tommy came back in and together, we held her until she left this world. He never forgave me for making that decision. Maybe if I'd seen that, maybe if I had made a different choice, it wouldn't have had to end the way it did."
"No, Kate, you can't really believe that," Monroe said. He pressed a kiss to her head. "You know better than that. You did what you thought was right. That's all any of us can do in life," he said, wondering why his dad's voice was coming out of his mouth.
Katie pulled his arms tighter around her and rubbed her cheek against his beard. "That's why I love you." She pulled away and smiled at him. "Now, where are those flowers? I'm three days late already."
Monroe watched as she tenderly arranged the flowers and decorations on the grave.
Katie stood up and placed a kiss on the small stone. She would never forget or neglect her little daughter, but she knew it was time to move on and quit trying to pay for mistakes she hadn't made. She would be back. Now she could look at it without pain. In the spring, they would plant flowers on it, and put teddy bears on it in the winter.
She slipped her arm around Monroe's waist as they left. "You're a pretty awesome guy, Eddie Monroe, do you know that?"
He looked at her and smiled. "And that's why I love you." He pulled her close and kissed her before nuzzling her neck.
Preview of Part 2
Starts 4 months after the end of Little Red Riding Hood
Micah Lasser was in a hurry to get to school for once. Today was the day. He was going to ask that new girl to the prom. He had to. It was only 3 weeks away. He'd been trying to get up the nerve since February. He'd decided it was today or nothing. He was a Blutbad, after all. Not a Mausehertz.
"Come on, Jake, get your butt down here," he yelled as he walked into his Uncle Hap's kitchen. He and his younger brother had been pretty much living there for the past few months while their mom got back on her feet.
"Hey, Son, where's the fire?" A leggy red head, leaning against the counter, asked.
"Aunt Angie!" He bounded over to her like an eager puppy. "When did you get back in town?"
"Just this morning," she smiled, hugging him. "So what's the big hurry? Last time I was here, Hap had to practically drag you to school. You haven't become a nerd while I've been gone, have you?"
Before he could reply, Hap snarled. "There are worse things he could do in this world." He wasn't happy with Angelina just showing up on his doorstep just when he finally had Micah headed in the right direction again.
"Down, Boy," Angelina snapped. "I was just joking."
"He's finally gonna ask Holly Clark to the prom," Jake said, coming into the room.
"Holly Clark?" Hap said. "Isn't that the Holly that's been living with Monroe? The wild girl?"
"Yeah," Micah answered. "She's been coming to school with Ms. B. for half days since January. She says that her therapist thought it would be good idea to start slow before she goes to school full time next year."
"Yeah, and Micah has the major hots for her," Jake supplied in usual 14 year old manner. "But then, I think he has the hots for Ms. B., too."
"I do not!" Micah swore. He liked Ms. B. for a teacher, that was all.
"Who's Ms. Burkhardt?" Angelina asked. She vaguely remembered a Detective Burkhardt was the cop on Rolf's case.
"Oh, she's Detective Nick's sister," Micah said. "She's my Lit. teacher."
"Really?" Angelina said, less concerned. Some prissy teacher didn't interest her.
"Anyway, Holly's been living with her and Mr. Monroe for a couple of months now," Micah said. "Though, I think, technically she lives with Ms. B. and Ms. B lives with Monroe."
That caught her attention. She narrowed her eyes. "This Ms. Burkhardt lives with Monroe? My Monroe?" Well, she'd just have to see about that.
She'd just have to see about that, indeed.