Despite challenges and struggles, these newlyweds almost have it all. There’s just one thing Max can’t give Ruby – a family. My latest novel, THE RULES OF PARENTHOOD, is available now on Amazon.
Read the first chapter below.
Max put her arm around her new wife and pulled her closer. They were sitting on a porch swing overlooking the lake and she and Ruby had been married for less than forty-eight hours. Max was already certain that her life could not be more perfect.
The ceremony had been intimate, just their families and a few friends watching as they bound their lives together in the beautiful flower garden behind Max’s parents’ house. Ruby had worn an antique lace dress that trailed gracefully on the ground behind her and Max had never seen her so beautiful. Her cheeks were rosy pink and her deep brown eyes turned the color of honey as they walked up the makeshift aisle together in the afternoon sun.
Max had worn a soft white linen vest that complimented Ruby’s lace and as they stood together amid the colorful flowers, their hands linked together while Max’s best friend, Mira, performed the ceremony, she never felt more certain that she and Ruby belonged together. Their vows were emotional and peppered with inside jokes – Ruby’s were full of anecdotes about the two of them and Max’s were full of quotes from movies they’d watched when they first started dating. And the kiss at the end of the ceremony… well, Max had been waiting two long years for that moment, and it lived up to every dream she had of it.
After the ceremony, there had been a feast prepared by Ruby’s mom, Lorna, and while everyone else danced, ate and made merry, Max and Ruby snuck away to make love for the first time as a married couple. Max didn’t mind the noise and chaos of the party so much after that because Ruby didn’t take her hand out of Max’s all night.
Max had everything she needed in the palm of her hand.
Now, she kissed Ruby’s fingers, giving her an amorous look. The sun was just beginning to set over the mountains on the other side of the lake and the sky was streaked with pink and purple. Ruby settled her head against Max’s shoulder and said, “I understand why you wanted to come here now. It’s beautiful.”
“It’s just you and me,” Max said, kissing the top of her head.
They could have gone anywhere for their honeymoon. Ruby’s parents had offered to pay for it as their wedding gift and Ruby had immediately begun dreaming of romantic places like Paris and Rome, but Max talked her into the Smoky Mountains. It wasn’t easy to convince her that solitude was better than busy streets and crowded tourist destinations, but she came around eventually.
“I want to crawl into bed with you and not leave for the next six days,” Max had said the moment they arrived in their secluded cabin in the mountains just twenty-four hours ago. She had dropped their bags just inside the door and wrapped her arms around Ruby’s slender waist, lifting her off her feet and carrying her the few steps to the king-sized bed waiting for them in the bedroom. She’d pounced on top of Ruby, pushing her thigh between her legs, and said, “I don’t want to see another person until we check out on Monday.”
Ruby had laughed and pulled Max’s shirt over her head, and despite their determination to stay in bed all week, they’d already ventured out a couple of times in search of food and adventure. This morning they drove into town to stock up on food and then spent most of the afternoon hiking on the Appalachian Trail. Then they came back to the cabin, took a shower together that ended in hot, soapy passion and a thoroughly fogged mirror, and Ruby promised to make her mother’s famous shepherd’s pie recipe for dinner.
First, though, they wanted to watch the sunset.
They didn’t even need to leave the cabin to do it – the porch swing that overlooked the lake provided the perfect vantage point. There were about a dozen other cabins lining the edge of the water, some visible and others obscured by trees or bends in the shoreline. As Max and Ruby sat together and watched the fiery orange sun dipping below the peak of the mountain, a few kids ran out and jumped into the water from a dock on the other side of the lake. They were barely visible from this far away, but their whoops and laughter carried across the water and Ruby snuggled tighter into Max’s side.
It was almost fully dark, the first stars beginning to shine in the night sky, when Ruby asked, “Have you ever thought about having kids, babe?”
The question startled Max. She’d been thinking of nothing more than shepherd’s pie and the peaceful sound of crickets, and of taking Ruby back to bed as soon as possible after dinner.
“No,” she said. “I never have.”
“Oh,” Ruby said, and then fell silent.
They watched the kids scramble back onto the dock – it was getting too dark to swim – and Max could tell that something more was required of her. She really hadn’t thought about kids before, in any context, and it was becoming clear to her that the same was not true for Ruby.
“Have you?” Max asked.
“Yeah,” Ruby said. She sat up and Max felt her absence immediately. Why hadn’t it ever occurred to her that Ruby might want kids? She was a children’s librarian after all, and family was a thing that most people wanted.
“I just never really thought about it,” Max tried to explain. “I’m an only child and I didn’t grow up around many kids-”
“It’s not a big deal,” Ruby said and Max had trouble reading the tone of her voice in the dark. Light from the living room came through a nearby window, but it only served to throw Ruby’s figure into silhouette and obscure her facial expressions. She put her hand in Max’s and said, “You don’t have to explain it to me, but do me a favor and think about it, okay?”
“You want kids,” Max said, rolling the idea over in her mind. “When?”
Ruby laughed and leaned forward, kissing Max as the swing moved gently beneath them, then said, “I don’t know. Not tomorrow or anything like that, but maybe in a few years after we’ve had time to enjoy being married, we might want to enjoy being parents, too.”
“I just-” Max started to object.
Her pulse was racing and she didn’t expect her body to react this way, but now that Ruby had opened the subject for discussion, a million different questions and concerns were racing through her mind. The foremost one was how she would stack up as a mom. After all, it had taken her more than twenty years to figure out how to love someone and she knew the only reason she’d been successful at that was because she’d found her soul mate. What if she couldn’t do the same for a child[js1] , or if she could but the kid never knew it because Max didn’t communicate her feelings in the same way as everyone else?
“Max,” Ruby said, a little louder this time to snap her out of the thoughts whirling in her head. Ruby
climbed into her lap, a feat easier said than done on a swaying porch swing. She put her hands on Max’s face and kissed her long and hard. Then she said, “Please don’t worry about this – I didn’t mean to freak you out. It was just an idea, okay?”
“Okay.” Max put her hands on Ruby’s hips and pulled her close. Now the light from the cabin was on her face, making her skin glow and her eyes sparkle, and Max tucked a strand of Ruby’s hair behind her ear. She whispered, “You’re perfect.”
“So are you,” Ruby said, her thumb brushing Max’s cheek.
Max snorted and said, “Yeah, right.”
“You are,” Ruby said. She leaned down and with her lips just grazing Max’s, she murmured, “Perfect for me.”
They kissed again, Max enjoying the feel of Ruby’s curves beneath her hands, but just as she was hooking her fingers under the hem of Ruby’s sun dress, she climbed off the swing. Ruby grabbed Max’s hand and pulled her toward the door.
“Come on,” she said. “I’m starving.”
“Me too,” Max said, although she had something other than the shepherd’s pie in mind as she followed Ruby into the cabin.