Hailey's Rodeo

Chapter Reveal


Prologue


February


People watching is my new thing. I used to always be the life of the party, but not anymore. Now I sit back and watch life happen around me. I’ve lost the love of my life. I’ve lost my reason to celebrate. Mostly, I’ve learned that I don’t need to be the center of attention. That life is more than partying and dancing. Life is loving and having a family. I enjoy watching everyone else now. Seeing them have the fun that I can’t have or feel anymore.

I’m lying to my family and everyone I care about. The dreams I’ve had since I was a little girl have changed. My life has been altered irrevocably. My heart is broken and will never heal because I did the one thing I knew I must for love. I gave it up.

I watch my brother, Hugh, standing at the bar with his best friend, Coal. He’s not paying attention to the conversation. His eyes are on his bride as she glides across the room visiting with the guests. Today is their day. I’ve been helping Hugh for days to make their wedding day perfect for them. I showed up earlier at their home with the dress Mom and I had picked out for Hanna. I helped her get ready. Of course, I didn’t help with her hair or makeup. Hanna is a professional at those. I look down my body at the red organza dress and try not to push my hand against my rolling stomach. I don’t want to give anything away. I don’t want my family and friends to figure out my deepest secret.

Watching Hanna for a bit, I see the woman she’s become. She’s no longer the broken girl my brother loved in the beginning. She’s grown into a wonderful woman, and I’m so glad they found their way back to each other. Their love did conquer all. My father had tried to destroy them. He almost succeeded too. He pushed Hanna away and lied to both of them. But they overcame.

Hanna’s two little girls come into view. Hugh absolutely loves them, and I know pretty soon he’ll be wanting to adopt them because he already thinks of them as his. I currently babysit both of them for Hanna and Hugh when they work. I adore them and they are giving me the practice I’m going to need. But I also know I’m going to have to get a real job. I need to provide for my own child. Looking at Hanna again, I think of all she sacrificed and did for her children and know I’d do the same. I can’t keep staying with my mom and living off her. It’s time for me to grow up. I got myself into this situation and I’ll make the best of it. I need to get my own place and focus on my future. I’ll talk to Kiera about renting the place Hanna was living in.

My head swims. My vision blurs slightly as my stomach growls, and I realize I haven’t eaten all day. Shit! I can’t do that. I need to be more careful.

Standing up, I turn to head toward the banquet table, but I stumble as everything blurs. I feel like I’m having an out-of-body experience. My arms can’t catch me. My legs give out. I fall toward the floor before everything goes black.

My eyes flutter open as I hear a commotion of movement and voices around me. I look up and find I’m lying in my mother’s arms with my brother next to me, his hand resting on my leg.

“What’s up?” I ask them because I can’t figure out why they are all watching me. It’s at that moment I realize I’m on the floor in the banquet room.

“You fainted. The EMTs are on their way.” My brother’s normally deep voice sounds panicked, higher pitched. He sounds scared.

"No, I don't need them. Maybe my blood sugar is low. I didn't eat very much today." I start to argue and try to get up but fall back down as my head swims again. My hands go up to hold my head still; it feels like my head is moving all over my neck. "Okay, I'm not feeling so good." Even my voice doesn’t sound right.

"Make way," a paramedic says as he pushes through the crowd. He kneels next to me, and I recognize him. This is what sucks about being from a small town. Everyone knows everyone. I’ve danced with this guy when I used to go out to the bars for line dancing. He’s asked me out several times and I always turned him down. My brother moves back slightly, but my mom continues to hold me to her. "Hailey, what happened?" the paramedic asks me.

"I fainted." Like, duh, dude, I’m lying on the ground to see if I can bloom into a flower, I want to say to him. What the fuck ever?

"Do you have any medical conditions we need to be aware of?" he asks as he grabs my wrist to check my pulse and looks at his watch.

I look at my mom, then Hugh. It’s going to tear them up when they find out. I look back at the paramedic and lower my head.

"I'm pregnant," I say quietly, but apparently not quiet enough as I hear the gasps across the room.

"What?" Hugh yells, and my mom starts crying.

"When, Hailey?" Mom asks.

I bite my lip, not sure I want to answer her.

"Who?" Hugh demands.

"Excuse me. I need to talk to her. Hailey, how far along are you?" the paramedic asks me.

"I'm about twenty weeks."

"That far along?" Mom gasps. I see the hurt in her eyes that I’ve kept this from her for so long.

"Okay, Hailey, let’s take you in to make sure you're okay." The paramedic again tries to deflect from my brother, who is now standing and pacing around us. My heartbeat speeds up because he’s making me anxious.

Another paramedic comes in and they get me on the gurney. Before they can move me out of the room, my mom steps over and takes my hand.

"I'll go with her; you stay here and celebrate,” she says to Hugh. I can’t believe I’ve ruined their wedding. “She'll be okay, and you have your wife to think about," she continues. Tears are rolling down my face and I sob as I hear them try to work everything out with who will take Aurora and Ariel, their daughters. Mom was supposed to watch them for the night so Hugh and Hanna could have a wedding night. The paramedics try to calm me, but I’m so upset because this is all my fault. If I had just eaten earlier, this wouldn’t be happening. Now everyone in the town will know that I’m pregnant. But I won’t be telling them who the father is, and he won’t be a part of our lives.