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AUDREY SCREAMS LIKE A MANIAC, jumping up and down on the bleachers. I’m right there next to her, shouting Danny’s name as he sprints around first base, second…
It’s the bottom of the final inning, and the game is tied.
The outfielder bobbles his catch, and Danny keeps running. His little legs are pumping so fast, they’re a blur. Audrey pauses and drags in a harsh breath, then keeps screaming. The ball’s in the air, flying toward the catcher as Danny sprints home.
Safe, the umpire motions, arms out.
Danny’s team lifts him up, and Audrey starts laughing. I throw my arm around her shoulders and drag her into my chest. Both of us are out of breath.
It’s not a championship game, or even the playoffs, but it’s still exciting. We eventually make it over to Danny to congratulate him. His dirty blond curls are in disarray, his cheeks flush.
“Did you see me?”
“You did so good,” Audrey says, her voice hoarse from all the screaming. “I think I lost my voice cheering you on.”
“Same here,” I croak.
Danny grins broadly at us, then dashes away to get his things. Audrey and I enjoy the balmy evening air and chat with other parents until the kids are ready to go.
“I think this calls for milkshakes,” I say when Danny finds us, his bag slung over his shoulder.
“Yeah!” My son pumps his fist even though milkshakes after baseball are no surprise. It’s become a bit of a tradition since the beginning of the season, with the three of us occupying our regular booth.
Danny’s twelve now. It’s been just over two years since I met Audrey, and life has never been better. She moved in a couple of months before we got married last June, and Danny has been thriving with her in the house. His grades have improved, and he’s throwing himself into baseball alongside his best friend, Jace.
Truthfully, I’ve been thriving too. Inside the house, organization reigns. The cheap cutlery tray I bought has been replaced with one that fits the utensil drawer perfectly. The kitchen cupboards have been rearranged so everything has its place. It’s amazing to see the inner workings of Audrey’s mind on display. She’s a genius.
Plucking a maraschino cherry from its bed of whipped cream, Audrey smiles at me. She pops the cherry in her mouth and wiggles happily, then takes a long drag of her strawberry milkshake.
We go over the game in minute detail, and Danny glows with pride when Audrey tells him how amazing his final run was.
By the time we’re home, the sun has gone down. Danny showers and heads to bed, and Audrey and I snuggle on the couch. The TV plays at low volume, and I enjoy the feeling of Audrey’s body next to mine. Stroking my fingers through her hair, I let out a long sigh of contentment.
We both turn to see Danny standing at the mouth of the hallway.
“What’s up, Danny?” Audrey asks, straightening.
Danny takes a few steps forward, then finally drops into the old leather armchair on the opposite side of the room. He’s wearing his Superman pajamas, which he’s already beginning to outgrow.
“Everything okay, buddy?”
Danny meets my gaze and nods. “Yeah. I just wanted to talk to you about something.”
“Anything,” Audrey says, smiling encouragingly.
“It’s just…” Danny inhales. Exhales. “I’ve been thinking that…you know…with you and Audrey married now, that maybe…”
He stops talking.
Audrey glances at me, brows drawn. She looks at Danny again, who’s tucked his knees up and wrapped his arms around them.
“Do you want me to leave you and Remy alone?” Audrey asks quietly. “I can go upstairs if you need to talk.”
“It’s not that,” Danny says. “I just—” He huffs, sounding frustrated. Finally, he blurts, “Do you think my mom would be mad if you adopted me? Officially, I mean?”
Audrey straightens, her hand flying to her chest.
For a moment, my throat is too thick to respond. Then I squeeze Audrey’s shoulder and stand, kneeling in front of Danny. “I think your mom would be happy with whatever makes you happy, Danny,” I tell him, my voice a bare rasp. I put my hand on his foot, squeezing gently. “Is that something you want?”
“Well…yeah,” he replies, staring at the image of Superman on his leg. “I just don’t know if it’s wrong to want it.”
“Come here,” I say, and I wrap my arms around my son. Because that’s what he is—my son. My child.
Audrey appears beside me, taking a seat on the arm of Danny’s chair. She puts her arm around his shoulders, and Danny turns to the side to wrap his own arms around her waist. Above his head, Audrey meets my gaze. Her eyes are glistening.
“It would make me so happy to adopt you, Danny. So, so happy.”
“Really?” Danny’s voice is muffled in Audrey’s clothes.
“Yes, honey,” she says, smoothing her hand over his ringlets. “I would be honored to call you my son.”
“Officially,” Danny adds.
“Officially,” Audrey confirms, smiling as a tear drops down her cheek.
Danny pulls away, sniffling. He looks at me, still slightly worried. “And it’s not bad for me to want that? I still love my mom, but it’s just…”
“Family is anything we make it, Danny,” I tell him. “You’ll always have Mom and Dad to remember, and now you’ll always have us. And if you want Audrey to adopt you, and she agrees, then it just means you’re adding to your family, not taking anything away.”
“More people to love you,” Audrey adds, squeezing his shoulders.
Danny nods, wiping his eyes. “Yeah. Okay. Can we still go visit Mom and Dad on their birthdays?”
“Of course we can.”
“And if Audrey wants to come, she can come,” Danny says, glancing tentatively at the woman in question.
Audrey nods vigorously, sniffles, and wipes her damp cheeks. She groans and shakes her head. “Don’t mind me. I’m just a big crybaby.”
Danny hums. “You kind of are.”
“Careful, kid,” I warn, but my eyes are teary too.
Danny laughs, and then the three of us have our arms around each other, squeezing tight.
The next day, Audrey creates a perfectly labeled and color-coded folder called “Adoption Paperwork,” and we begin the process of making Danny her son—officially.