Stories from Lightport, Massachusetts
More stories from your favorite characters in The Front Row Series
Stories from Lightport, Massachusetts
More stories from your favorite characters in The Front Row Series
Summary: A "deleted" scene taking place during the "missing" years between the two timelines in What Hindered Love. Chloe and Luke both have the flu, and Micah agrees to watch the two year old so Chloe can rest. But as a result, he learns some painful news about Chloe.
Micah wiped the sweat from his brow with the back of his hand as he shut the doors of the catering van. He’d barely had time to take a breath when Hannah came running up to him in a panic.
“Micah, thank God!” she panted as she skidded to a stop in front of him. “All the part time help has already taken off for the night, and I’ve got boxes of decorations piled in a heap. Where Josiah finds such crappy help I’ll never know.”
“The college, Hannah,” Micah chuckled, “they’re the only ones who will work so cheap.”
“Oh right,” Hannah laughed breathlessly, gesturing wildly with her hands like she always did, “makes sense. I mean, at least they broke down the tents and hauled all the heaters away. Anyhow, I can’t lift all this stuff! Please, come to my rescue like you used to back in high school.”
By this point, she was bouncing on the balls of her feet and pouting as she clutched his arm. He shook his head thinking how she used the same tactics in elementary school to weasel him out of his snack in Sunday school.
“That pout works a whole lot better on Beau,” he quipped, but then couldn’t help laughing when her face fell. He slung his arm over her shoulder, “but I’ll help you anyway.”
Micah followed Hannah across the backyard of the historic mansion where today’s wedding had been held. She hadn’t been exaggerating when she had called it a “heap.” Micah grabbed a box of vases filled with multi-colored pebbles and grunted.
“I didn’t expect decorations to be so heavy. Where to?”
“My car,” Hannah said as she grabbed a lighter box of tulle and ribbon. Micah followed her to her beat up hatchback.
“Seriously? You transport everything in this?” Micah set the heavy box down carefully, but the glasses still tinkled loudly as they were jostled around.
Hannah didn’t seem concerned by the sound. “Yup. We have to have a catering van, and the other van gets filled up with the tents and the sound equipment. Maybe one day . . .”
Micah nodded as she trailed off, “Yeah, maybe someday we can have a full time staff, too.”
“Maybe our own event center!” Hannah went on excitedly, “I hate putting up and tearing down these tents.”
“Tents!” Micah protested, “I’d love to have my own kitchen. Keeping the food warm is a monumental challenge.”
“But the food was warm tonight. That wasn’t always the case when Josiah was on his own. You coming on has been huge, Micah. And the cake tonight? All the guests were talking about it. It’s hard to believe it was your first one.”
Micah took the praise silently, though he was relieved to hear that the wedding cake had been a success. He just didn’t feel right accepting Hannah’s statements as truth. Josiah had been incredibly generous letting him in on this business endeavor. He and Kate had put in so much blood, sweat, and tears to start up Barrett Events. People probably thought he was insane for bringing in his little brother, fresh out of rehab, only one year into it. They probably thought him more insane when a year after that he made Micah partner and changed the name of the company to Barrett Brothers Events. Josiah swore it wasn’t a handout; Micah was a better cook, could also bake, and revenue had gone up in the year since Micah took over the catering. Never mind he had no college degree or formal training. Never mind he was only one year removed from rehab, Micah had earned it. It’s what Josiah said, but Micah had a hard time believing it.
You’ll be a self-taught success story. I have no doubt.
Chloe Wren had said that – what? – three years ago. He rubbed his temple wearily after he set another box down in the back of Hannah’s car. Would he ever stop thinking about Chloe? It had been two years ago this month that she proclaimed to an entire room full of people that she never wanted to see him again. Not that he blamed her.
Micah slid the last of Hannah’s boxes into the back of her crammed hatchback. She thanked him as she shivered in her light coat.
“Who gets married outside in October?” she grumbled through chattering teeth, “In Massachusetts?”
Micah rubbed his own chilled hands together, “People who want a reduced price. It’s the same reason they got married on a Sunday afternoon. Which I’m thankful for, by the way. Can you imagine how cold it would be right now if this had been an evening wedding?”
“No kidding. Speaking of which, what did your dad say about you and Josiah working on a Sunday?”
Micah spread his feet, crossed his arms, and looked down his nose at Hannah in a perfect imitation of his father, “What can I say, boys? You’re grown men. But don’t make a habit of it.”
Hannah giggled behind her hand, “In Josiah’s defense, I don’t think he anticipated how early we would have to start preparing.”
“Well, he should have. We put in a full day for an evening wedding. He thought three o’clock in the afternoon would be any different?”
The phone in Micah’s coat pocket vibrated, and he pulled it out. He frowned when he read the text message that had just come through.
“Everything okay?” Hannah asked with genuine concern.
“Well, no, not really,” he answered honestly, “Luke and Chloe both have the flu. She wants to know if I can watch him so she can get some rest.”
Of course I will, Wren. I’m just about to leave here. I’ll be by in about fifteen minutes to pick him up.
No need to do that. Your mom is coming. Already talked to her.
Micah rolled his eyes and groaned at Chloe’s stubbornness.
“What’s wrong?” Hannah asked.
“She’s being typically Chloe,” Micah said, shaking his head as he typed a response back. “She wants my mom to pick him up, but I’m perfectly capable – “
“Micah,” Hannah cut him off with a hand to his arm. He ignored her and finished typing.
It’s not a problem. It’s on my way.
“Micah!” Hannah repeated, louder this time.
“What?” Micah snapped, a response that Hannah pretty much ignored. They’d been like brother and sister since they were about five years old, so no amount of squabbling could hurt either one's feelings.
“If you’re going to pick up Luke, there’s something you should know . . .” Hannah trailed off, then glanced away, biting her lower lip.
Micah shook his head at Hannah’s cryptic behavior, then focused back on his phone where Chloe’s response had popped up on the screen.
Your mom is picking him up Micah. We’ve been over this. I’m sick and not in the mood.
He sighed wearily. He knew there was no point in arguing with her.
Fine – and get well, Wren.
Micah slid his phone back into his pocket and faced Hannah again. “Well, I’m not picking him up, so if you were trying to warn me about a new boyfriend you can save it. Or has she taken Scott back? Again?”
He tried not to let bitterness into his voice, but who was he kidding? Least of all Hannah. Or anyone else in his family. Okay, pretty much all of Lightport probably knew he hadn’t gotten over Chloe Wren.
“It’s not that . . .” Hannah continued to hedge.
Micah swallowed hard, trying not to jump to conclusions. Hannah could be a bit theatrical at times, after all. “Okay, Hannah, you’re freaking me out. What is it?”
Hannah took a deep breath, then grasped Micah’s hands, looking into his eyes as if she were about to deliver a death sentence, “Chloe is . . . pregnant.”
Micah literally felt his legs go weak beneath him, and he staggered a bit under the weight of those three little words. “What? No . . . there must be some mistake. Are you sure?”
Hannah nodded sadly, “Your mom’s been trying to figure out how to tell you.”
Micah shook his head, not sure how to process this new information. His mom had known? And she didn’t warn him? Micah had a custody hearing two weeks ago. Chloe had declined attending, choosing to sign off on the judge’s decision. Micah had thought little of it, honestly. Chloe hadn’t shown for last year’s hearing either. But how could his mom have let him walk in there blind?
“Your mom suspected for a while, but Chloe’s just started to show,” Hannah continued softly, “she’s due in March.”
Hannah nodded sadly, watching Micah’s reaction carefully. He paced back and forth, trying to dredge up the bits of gossip Ally was always trying to feed him at the diner. Normally, he only half listened, then tossed aside the brunette’s words. For one, he had been the topic of enough gossip to despise the spreading of it. And second, when the gossip was about Chloe and her love life, well, why torture himself? Hannah filled in the information he was trying to sort through in his mind.
“Scott is the father, Micah.”
Luke’s here. Just wanted to let you know.
Micah hit send then glanced over at the flush-faced two year old cocooned in blankets on Micah’s bed. He brushed Luke’s hair back from his forehead to find it wet with sweat.
Good. Did you get my instructions? Does he still have a fever?
Yes. I just gave him some more Tylenol.
Thank you for doing this.
I’m his father. It’s part of the job. Micah bit his lip and hesitated before typing further. I hear congratulations are in order. March, right?
Luke wiggled closer to Micah’s side, regarding his father with identical bright blue eyes. Well, they were normally bright. Right now they were dulled with fever.
Thanks. Yes, March. It’s a boy.
Luke scooted onto Micah’s lap and curled against his chest. Micah took a deep breath before deciding to go all in.
A boy? Scott must be thrilled!
It felt like it took forever for Chloe to respond, and Micah’s heart was about to beat out of his chest as a thousand different questions flitted through his mind. Had Scott moved in? Were they getting married? Did he know that Chloe craved ice cream with pretzels when she was pregnant?
There is no Scott. For good this time.
Micah sat there, frozen, staring at the phone in his hand. To say an emotional war was raging inside of him in this moment was an understatement. On the one hand, he was relieved. But didn’t that make him not only horribly selfish but also a huge hypocrite? He had made the choices he had to give Chloe and Luke their best chance at happiness. Chloe pregnant and alone wasn’t what he had in mind. But then again, Micah certainly didn’t think Scott could make her happy, either. From what Micah could see, the jerk had brought Chloe nothing but heartbreak. The immediate question was, how did he respond to this text?
Luke gave him an easy out when he whimpered and put a tiny, shaking hand against Micah’s chest. Micah’s white tee shirt was soaked with Luke’s sweat, and he could feel the shivers course through the little lad’s body.
I’m so sorry, Chloe. I’m also sorry I have to go. Luke’s asking for me.
Micah groaned at his own lame excuse as he hit send. It was true, but he knew full well he never should have started the conversation in the first place. He was still a bit shocked Chloe had let it go on as long as she had. He typed another quick text before hers could come through.
And you need to rest, Wren Go to bed!
Micah stood with Luke in the crook of one arm as he set the phone on his nightstand. He paced a bit, rocking Luke in his arms and whispering in his ear. He wrapped the black fleece blanket covered in tiny guitars tighter around his son’s feverish body.
“It will take time for the Tylenol to kick in, ‘kay buddy?”
Luke looked up at Micah and managed to choke out, “Sing me? Pway ‘tar?”
Micah smiled down at the two year old in his arms and brushed a kiss across his forehead. “Sure buddy, Daddy can sing you a song with his guitar.”
Micah laid Luke gently on the bed, fluffing the pillows and tucking the blankets exaggeratedly until Luke giggled. Then he slid his guitar out from under the bed and took it gently from its case. He tuned it, then strummed a few chords. He thought over songs he knew then settled on a new one that he and Kate were learning for church. It was one he could relate to as a former addict who was celebrating over two years of staying clean, about Jesus breaking the chains of sin and setting us free.
As Micah strummed the last chord, he looked over at his son. At some point, as Micah had gotten lost in the song, Luke had fallen asleep. Micah himself was exhausted after such a busy day and slid under the covers on the other side of the bed. He turned and leaned over to brush a kiss against Luke’s fevered cheek. As his son shivered under the covers, Micah thought of Chloe. Sick with the flu, and alone, with no one to take care of her.
Micah rolled over with his back to his son, suddenly intensely worried about her. Lord, take care of her. She’s all alone. Almost immediately, deep inside of his soul, a voice whispered.
No, my son, she isn’t alone.
Micah awakened with a start, unsure what had startled him. He glanced blearily at the clock on his nightstand. 4:26. A whimpering sounded from the other side of the bed, and Micah bolted up, heart pounding.
“Luke,” Micah gasped, leaning over his son’s form. Luke was thrashing in the sheets which were now damp. Micah flipped on the lamp to find the two year old drenched with sweat, two bright red spots coloring his cheeks. Micah felt the boy to find that he was practically on fire. In a panic, Micah scooped him up and carried him into the bathroom where he kept the thermometer. He held it under the boy’s arm, and Luke started to weep.
“Shhh,” Micah soothed, “it’s gonna be okay.”
But Micah wasn’t sure he believed that when he saw the number on the screen: 105.3. His heart almost stopped beating. Only half aware of what he was doing, Micah somehow slipped a pair of sweatpants on and a coat. He hurriedly shoved his feet into some clogs simply because it was faster, then scooped Luke up into his arms once again, wrapping him up in the blanket as best he could against the cold. Still with a haze of disbelief surrounding him, Micah was in his truck driving to the emergency room at 4:40 am. Getting checked in was a blur, and his panic and frustration started to mount as he talked to three different nurses. None of them seemed to care that Luke’s temperature was sky high, and could no one give his son some damn medicine? He was about to march through those swinging doors and hunt down a doctor all by himself when finally – finally! – they called Luke’s name.
Once they were in the examining room, the nurses seemed to finally take things seriously. They took Luke’s temperature again, which was now 105.5. Micah was now in almost full-blown panic mode. Another nurse took Luke’s blood pressure and found it extremely low. Before Micah even knew what was happening, they had his tiny little boy hooked up to an IV to administer fluids. The nurses flurried around the room, and Micah couldn’t get anyone to tell him what was going on. Finally, he was alone with Luke, holding his tiny hand as he lay on the huge hospital bed. Luke had never looked so small.
Micah hastily brushed a tear from his cheek and cleared his throat in order to pull himself together. “Yes?”
“I’m Dr. Melissa Carter. I’m the pediatrician on call, but I also happen to be Luke’s regular pediatrician, too.”
The petite woman with thick dark hair stepped forward and confidently shook Micah’s hand. “It’s nice to finally meet you, Dr. Carter. You’re also Chloe’s boss, right?”
“That’s right,” she nodded as she removed the stethoscope from around her neck. “And as for you, little Jedi, you’re not feeling so hot, are you?”
Luke managed a tiny giggle at being called a Jedi, but then promptly frowned and shook his head. Micah could tell how comfortable his son was with Dr. Carter as she examined him. She had a firm yet comforting voice that Micah could tell put both children and parents at ease. When she finished, she gave some instructions to a nurse, made a few notes in Luke’s chart, then turned to Micah.
“The fever is coming down,” she explained, “still high, but steadily decreasing. Once we get it back to normal, we’ll release him. He got dehydrated, which caused the drop in his blood pressure, but the fluids we’re giving him have already made a huge difference.”
“So he’s fine?”
Dr. Carter smiled gently, “Yes. Children can stand much higher fevers than you would expect. 105 is by far not the highest fever I’ve ever seen in my practice. Not that you were wrong to bring him in, there can definitely be complications. But going forward, alternate Tylenol and ibuprofen every four hours, and if the temperature gets above 101, try a cool sponge bath. Just make sure you wrap him up warm afterwards so he doesn’t get a chill.”
Micah nodded and took a deep breath of relief. He leaned over and gave Luke an awkward hug and kiss, reaching carefully around the IV. When he straightened, he looked back at the doctor. “Thank you.”
Dr. Carter nodded, “It’s my pleasure.”
Micah hesitated for a moment before asking, “Have you talked to Chloe?”
If the doctor thought it was odd for Micah to be asking, she didn’t show it. “She called in sick for today, said she has the flu. I was fine with that of course, she’s always been a hard worker, and the last thing a pediatrician’s office needs is a receptionist spreading the flu.”
That wasn’t what Micah had been getting at. He scratched behind his ear. “I figured that. It’s just . . . well, do you know if anyone is checking in on her? I mean, she lives alone, and her cousins tried to call, but Chloe is so stubborn she won’t pick up. And if Luke’s this sick, and Chloe’s – “ Micah broke off abruptly. He couldn’t tell Chloe’s boss about the pregnancy. What if Chloe hadn’t told her yet? He knew what opportunities this job could open up for Chloe once she finished school.
“I know about her pregnancy,” Dr. Carter said abruptly, “and you’re right to be worried. Which is exactly why I told Chloe there was nothing she could do to stop me from going over there as soon as my shift is over in the ER. My PA takes all my cases in the office on Mondays anyway, so I’m free to veg out on Chloe’s couch while also taking her chicken soup and plenty of fluids.”
Micah sighed, his body sagging in relief. The doctor smiled at him before continuing.
“No matter how hard Chloe tries to do it alone, there are too many of us who love her and just won’t let her.” Dr. Carter then gave Luke a good-bye fist pump and turned to leave. At the door, she turned and gave Micah a teasing smile, “And I’ll also be sure to ask Chloe how in the world she ever let you get away.” Then she was gone.
Micah would have begged her to do no such thing – if he hadn’t been rendered speechless. Surely she was joking, right? He shook his head as the only other alternative dawned on him. Had his two year old’s pediatrician just flirted with him?
“Daddy,” Luke called weakly from the hospital bed. Micah was at his side in an instant.
“Yes, little man, what is it?”
Micah laughed, exulting in the feel of his son’s cooler cheeks against his fingers. “Hospitals are boring, aren’t they? But look, they have TV. Would you like me to find a cartoon for you?”
Micah found an episode of Little Einsteins and, at his son’s request, squeezed onto the hospital bed. He eased Luke onto his chest, careful of the IV. Soon, on the TV screen Rocket was soaring into the sky with his four precocious passengers, and Luke feebly “pat, pat, patted” along. Micah ran his hand through his son’s thick black hair, whispering prayers of thanks that he was okay. He also said a prayer of thanks that Chloe Wren, no matter what, would never be alone. The words to the song he sang to Luke only a few hours before drifted through his mind as he felt himself doze off. He knew if God had broken his chains of addiction, he could break Chloe’s chains of fear too.
I am a former English teacher turned homeschool mom of three who writes Christian romance novels on the side. You know, in my huge amount of spare time.