The following is a removed portion of the forthcoming novel, Line of Law and Justice. For more behind-the-scenes looks at your favorite characters and updates on Line of Law and Justice, make sure to follow this blog.
Jeb was thirty-five years-old the day Sophie was born, and terrified. Most of his life, he’d done his best to avoid becoming a parent. His first wife, Jillian, talked about starting a family relentlessly, but Jeb would bypass the subject with promises of being ready at some great future date. First it was when he retired from service, then when he got through undergrad, and finally after graduating law school. She’d gotten sick of his excuses and most other things about him before he ever had to prove that last one false, though. After a particularly nasty fight, he’d come home from a night with the boys to find his stuff neatly packed in two suitcases on the front lawn. He’d seen it coming. Hell, he’d asked for it. Despite his shortcomings, Jillian had tried to stand by her man just as Tammy Wynette had told her to, but in the end relented in letting him go.
He’d met Aubriella a couple of years after the divorce was finalized. Their relationship moved quickly and he found himself down on one knee after only a year of dating. He hadn’t even talked to his parents about the divorce, let alone introduced them to Aubrie. Aside from his brother, they hadn’t met any of each other’s families. They’d just lived in their own little bubble for three-hundred-and-fifty-two of the most glorious days of Jeb’s life. Aubrie rejected him flat out, laughing off his impetuousness as a poorly planned joke. Both of their mothers were extremely religious and certainly wouldn’t approve of what would seem a fast-paced courting season, especially given that Jeb was a divorcee. But, she couldn’t deny the romance of it all and agreed to move in with him until they had time to get their parents appropriately on board. It wouldn’t matter that they were living in sin if they both knew they were headed to the altar eventually, right?
Of course, God laughs when we make plans and Aubrie found out she was pregnant just six months after moving in. The ensuing months flew by. They’d thrown together an impromptu wedding, bought a new house, baby-proofed it, and rushed through a million wedding and baby showers. Before he’d had any time to think about this new life, he was becoming a father. When the big night arrived, Jeb had just settled in with his signature bourbon and Coke when Aubrie came red faced and sweating into the living room.
“We’ve got to go,” she huffed, nostrils flaring. “Like, now. Screw the bags. Call the doctor. It’s time. It’s past time. We are having this baby NOW.” Her loose-fitting top billowed beneath a visible contraction, her eyes narrowing on him at the same rate as her condensing stomach. The beach ball of a belly contrasted against her red-faced ire so humorously that by the time he was dressed and loading her in the car Jeb was too entertained by the sight to be concerned about the impending little life she was about to bring into the world.
That changed by the time they reached the hospital. Her contractions were less than three minutes apart and lasting what seemed like forever. She’d began shouting obscenities he wasn’t even familiar with about five miles away from the hospital and hadn’t let up since. They’d checked her in and immediately taken her back to Labor and Delivery. He almost felt sorry for the nurse holding her hand on the way back. Even as their forms faded down the hall, Jeb could see the woman’s hand turning white with the force of Aubrie’s grip.
A gaggle of desk attendants shoo’d Jeb into a small waiting room by the nursery. It was 1984, but in their smalltime hospital, the doctors still preferred expecting fathers to stay the hell out of their delivery rooms. Change comes slow to a small town. Shortly after he’d taken a seat, the doctor came in to speak to Jeb. Aubrie had been right. Their baby had tried to make a quick entrance into the world, and was crowning by the time the doctor got his first look. Unfortunately, what the child lacked in patience, it made up for in girth, and was completely stuck in the birth canal. They were going to have to do an emergency C-section.
This news didn’t surprise Jeb. Aubrie was a small woman, and you could tell from a mile away that she was carrying a hoss in her mid-section. She swore to him it was twins, but he knew it was just one big boy. Probably a football player like his old man. They’d decided to call him Jackson. It was his mother’s maiden name. Jeb wasn’t a huge fan of his mother at the time, but Aubrie suggested it would ease the tension with the family since he’d announced simultaneously that he and his high school sweetheart had divorced several years ago and that he was freshly remarried to a woman that would be giving him a child in a number of months that no matter how forgivingly you did the math, was obviously conceived out of wedlock.
Jeb nervously paced the waiting room as friends and family started poured in. Jeb and Aubrie’s parents arrived together, having decided to share a cab since they were all staying at the only decent hotel in town. He could only imagine the conversations. Her parents were the elite of the South. Her father owned a multi-million-dollar tobacco company and her mother was dedicated to any charity that would get her picture in the paper. Meanwhile, his father worked the mines and his mother was a nurse. They lived on a small working farm and sold tobacco to her father’s company for extra money in season. That was the only common ground they shared, outside of the impending grandchild.
Jeb hadn’t realized how long Aubrie had been in surgery until the sudden surge of people found him nervously looking at the clock to avoid conversation. When he saw that he’d been pacing for going on an hour, a sudden pang of dread wrenched his stomach to the point he thought he might vomit. He knew this wasn’t the time or place for that, though, so he choked down the rising bile and tried to appear calm.
He met eyes with his mother. Her lips parted in a sympathetic smile that suggested she knew his guts were balled up in a knot so tight he may never fart again. Despite his best efforts, she always knew what he was thinking. It bugged the hell out of him.
“I checked with the nursing station on the way in,” she said in the same tone she used to calm anxious patients that came through her infirmary. “She’s fine. They’re just giving her some time with the baby before they wheel the little one out. You did it, kiddo. You’re a daddy. We couldn’t be more proud of you.”
Before he had time to react, she enveloped him in a fierce embrace. He wasn’t expecting the hug, nor the word “proud” to be coming out of her mouth in association with an unplanned baby. He wanted to tell her that he had known everything was OK. That he had never been worried because he was a grown man and now responsible for another human life and really he didn’t need his mommy to go running to the nurse’s station for him because he had two good legs. Instead, he hugged her hard as tears of relief for his wife and joy for his new child spilled down his cheeks.
Aubrie’s father, Emmett, reached out a hand of congratulations and offered a cigar, a slight hint of whiskey accompanying his breath. The sight of Emmett always made Jeb smile. He was a walking Southern stereotype standing six-foot-three-inches tall and decked to the nines for any occasion. Jeb imagined that when Emmett was a Navy man he was in good form, but wealth and booze had plumped his figure so the buttons on his custom-tailored shirts stood ready to pop. Today he’d chosen a white three-piece suit complete with matching ten-gallon hat and a black latigo tie with sterling silver accents. He looked like Boss Hog from the Dukes of Hazard, so much so that when the show premiered, Jeb offered to sue for likeness. But the jovial demeanor and bright blue eyes of the Southern debutant outshined his showmanship.
If Emmett felt embarrassed by his daughter’s current situation, he showed no sign of it, a sharp contrast to his wife whom hadn’t stopped scowling since the moment she walked in the door, or presumably since she found out about the baby. Jeb wondered if she’d ever been seen not scowling. While Emmett had been none-to-thrilled to find out that Jeb had “compromised” his daughter’s integrity before taking her hand, he beamed with pride that it was only because Aubrie had denied Jeb’s initial proposal. Plus, he was thrilled to be receiving a grandchild, regardless of the circumstances. He thought himself from a fine line of men and was eager to welcome another boy to the brood.
Jeb had just inhaled his first puff of a fine Cuban when a young, plump nurse came into the waiting room smiling ridiculously. “We’re ready for you at the nursery room window,” she chirped. Everyone hustled to the front of the room where a large curtain drew back to reveal a single infant in the center. Behind the glass, wrapped in a tiny blanket and lying in the lone plastic crib was the most gigantic hunk of baby Jeb had ever laid eyes on. The name card at the bottom of the crib read simply “Baby Girl Tate.”.
“This can’t be right,” Jeb thought. He was supposed to have a honker of a boy to play football with and teach about girls. He’d come from a family of four boys and quite frankly didn’t know shit about raising girls. Not to mention he didn’t exactly have a reputation for treating his women well, save Aubrie. The thought of having a girl a horrible karma he couldn’t entertain. He convinced himself they’d mislabeled the child.
“She’s beautiful,” cried his mother, tears free flowing down her aging face.
“Well, of course you’d think so,” his mother-in-law replied bitterly. “She looks like your son spit her out of his mouth”.
“Guess that settles that,” Jeb thought as he looked at his baby girl.
The rest of the crowd echoed Aubrie’s mom’s sentiments, though they were all much kinder about it. Some even seemed pleased at how strongly the Tate genes exuded from this child. Jeb had to admit, she did have his eyes. Aubrie had said that babies were all born with blue eyes, but staring back at him were the darkest brown eyes he’d ever seen outside of a mirror.
“Eh, don’t worry about it son,” Emmett said, slapping his cigar-free hand on Jeb’s shoulder. “There’s a lot of strong men in the world, it could use another strong woman, and you don’t have to look any further than that little one’s momma to know she’s gonna be one strong ass little woman.”