By: Francette Phal

“We’re here.” Eden looked out of the passenger window, and sure enough they were already at the Langston Transportation Authority station. She took a deep breath; there was no turning back now. She’d resolved to put her past with Dominic behind her and although the uncertainty of her future seemed utterly daunting at this point, Eden needed to rise to the challenge. Not just for herself but for the baby that would arrive in just a few short months. She gave Jenna a hug that lasted a beat too long, and when she pulled away, it was with a watery smile. “Thank you, Jenna.”

“God, Eden, take care of yourself, okay?”

Eden could only nod before drawing away and heading inside the station. She stood for a moment to peer at the large travel board high up in the rafters, finding her destination she ambled to the service window, and with Dominic’s card, she bought a ticket to New York and one to New Orleans. The third ticket she purchased with cash. She gave away her first two tickets and the third she kept with her. An hour later, Eden boarded the passenger train headed to Amesbury, only a few hours out of Boston and settled in for the three hour ride. Sometimes the best place to hide was in the most obvious. He wouldn’t look for her this close to home.

* * *

She was looking at perfection. Ten perfect, pink little toes. Ten perfect, pink little fingers. Two perfect eyes. One perfect button nose. Liam Bennett Mercer, born exactly two months ago today, was his mother’s pride and joy. He cooed a little, his fingers balling into small fists, his face scrunching in what was the beginning of a tantrum, but just before he could release that heartbreaking wail, his mother cradled him close to her overlarge bosom and he quickly latched on. Eden was completely in love. She set the wooden rocker in motion and watched him eat, a smile on her colorless lips. She’d never realized she could love someone so much that it could hurt so good. Her Liam was wrapped in and around her heart so tightly, so intricately that no one could even begin to unravel the bonds of that love.

From that first moment of birth to this moment now and forever more, Liam was her everything. It brought tears to her eyes that she’d nearly lost him, during those first critical two weeks when physical and mental exhaustion had been so prevalent, her hormones running rampant, one careless mistake had nearly cost her this precious little gift. All she’d wanted was a small nap, just to rest her eyes for a few minutes but then those few minutes had bled into an hour and then another and by the time she’d woken up, Liam had stopped breathing. Eden unconsciously whimpered as the memories assailed her. She looked down to check if he was still breathing and even though she could feel the strong pulls of his mouth at her nipple as he greedily fed, she still checked, she still needed to see for herself. Assured that he was just fine, the rapid beats of her heart tempered and she exhaled.

God, but she’d never known true fear until those eternal seconds when she’d tried to resuscitate him. It’d been her neighbor who’d ultimately saved Liam’s life. Eden owed so much to Wes Courtland. His swift actions that day had saved her child’s life, and Eden was forever indebted to him. His experiences as a nurse had enabled him to get Liam to breathe again. He’d driven a frazzled Eden to the hospital soon after and had stayed with her the two days it’d taken to clear Liam. He’d been there over the last two months, buying her groceries, cooking for her, and providing stimulating adult conversation when she’d needed it most. Eden had a sneaking suspicion that he liked her, but she couldn’t really say for sure, considering the amount of women she saw coming in and out of his condo when he was home. But regardless of his unclear personal life, he was a great friend to Eden, and she appreciated his friendship. It was really all she could manage anyway; Liam was the only love she would allow in her life. She came to her feet, gently humming gently so he remained asleep. Eden carefully put him down in his bassinet and stood over him for a long while, caressing the tuft of jet black hair he’d been born with. This was among the other attributes he had not inherited from her. But she quickly shook her head, refusing to think about him.

Instead she pooled all of her focus on her day tomorrow. She was returning to work at Banks and Ronald, the real estate firm she’d been a part of since moving to Amesbury. She’d worked there temporarily as a receptionist while attending real estate classes, and the instant she’d received her license, they’d offered her a full time job as an agent. It was a small firm, fairly new, but was growing increasingly fast due the rising real estate market, so they’d needed all hands on deck and Eden had readily jumped on the offer, grateful to the two women who’d given her the amazing opportunity.