• Meg Bawden

The Wedding Band (King/Quinn short story)

The Wedding Band

Laughter filled the house, making me smile. This is what I woke up to every morning, and the sounds overwhelmed me with a happiness I had long forgotten before King came alone. I couldn’t remember the last time H.J. truly squealed with such joy—probably before Hunter’s death.

Dragging myself out of the warm cocoon I’d made in the blankets, I headed downstairs with a yawn. What I found when I got to the living room made me smile wider.

King and H.J. had made a fort out of the sofa cushions, with the added security of bedsheets and blankets. Reece lay on his own blanket outside of it, kicking his little legs with excitement when he saw me. On the verge of crawling, Reece hadn’t quite made it to that yet.

I kissed him on the cheek as a good morning, earning an undecipherable garble for an answer.

More giggles came from the fort, this time a combination of H.J.’s and a deeper, more adult one, and I rolled my eyes. Falling to my knees, I peeked inside the small entrance they’d left open.

H.J. and King sat nestled in the corner of their fort, playing with a set of toys I’d specifically told H.J. to keep in his room. They grinned mischievously at me, caught in the act. I couldn’t stop the smile from crossing my face.

“What are you two up to without me?” I crawled inside, my back brushing along the top of the entrance, nearly bringing down the entire thing.

“Watch out, Papa!” H.J. shot forward, fixing the part of the cushions I’d dislodged.

I settled close to King and kissed him.

He scrunched up his nose. “You haven’t brushed your teeth.”

“Nope.” I shrugged. “I wanted to see what you two were up to.”

“We’re playing,” H.J. answered with an isn’t it obvious? tone. Six years old and he was getting an attitude already. I couldn’t imagine what he’d be like as a teenager.

“Didn’t I tell you to keep those toys to your room?” I looked at him seriously.

“You weren’t awake,” he said, grinning. He handed me one of his small cars. “If you want to be part of our secret club, you have to play.”

“Your secret club?” I raised my eyebrows at King, and he chuckled.

“H.J. wanted a castle.” He gestured around the fort. “So we built one.”

I shook my head in disbelief but snuggled up to his warmth. His scent lured me in, tempting me to drag him out of the room and back to our bed. “You’re the best daddy.”

“Dogpile!” H.J. yelled, jumping at us. King managed to grab him before he could land on my stomach, where a new life was growing already. We all laughed, and King tickled H.J., making him wiggle.

Reece whimpered outside the fort, and I took that as my cue to give them both a kiss before exiting again. I picked Reece up and headed upstairs to change him. Once he had a fresh diaper and was back in his crib, his eyes dipped closed until he was sleeping. I went and had a shower.

H.J. and King were still laughing by the time I moved out of the shower and wrapped a towel around my waist.

Stepping in front of the full-length mirror in our bedroom, I looked at myself. I’d filled out in the face since having Reece, my cheeks not as sallow and drawn. If anything, a soft blush had returned to my skin, making me look healthier than ever.

I wasn’t as skinny, either, which, according to Mom, meant I was taking care of myself better. The only thing that remained the same was the band around my middle finger. I still hadn’t taken it off, even though it’d been a year since I started dating King. A part of me felt the guilt of keeping it on, as though I was betraying King by leaving it there, but then a different part of me would feel the same way to Hunter if I took it off.

King had never asked me to remove my old wedding band, and I knew he never would. He carefully asked questions about Hunter, genuinely intrigued about my deceased husband. H.J. and King had conversations about him, too, with H.J. telling him what kinds of things they used to do. I loved King for that. H.J. didn’t have many people to talk about Hunter with.

I played with the plain, gold band and sighed. Slipping it up to my knuckle, I paused. Could I take it off completely?

Warm, comforting hands slid around my waist, caressing my small, extended belly where our third child was growing. King pressed his chest against my back and kissed my neck lovingly. “What are you thinking about?”

“That maybe it’s time to take this off.” I nodded at where I was playing with the ring. “It’s been over two years.”

King rested his chin on my shoulder, his hands linked securely around me. His strong body melded against mine, sending a gentle wave of comfort through me. Every part of me reacted on impulse, as though my body knew King’s warmth meant safety.

“Have you stopped loving Hunter?”

The question caught me off guard and I met his eyes through the mirror. I swallowed around the thickness of emotion in my throat. “No.”

“Then why would you take it off?” He cocked his head.

“Because I’m with you now. We’re having our second child,” I said simply, as though it should have made sense. Didn’t it?

“And?” King sighed and laid another kiss on my skin, this time on my shoulder where his chin had rested. “Quinn, we’ve talked about this before. I’m not asking you to let him go.”

“I know, but doesn’t it feel weird, knowing that I’m still wearing the ring of my dead husband?” I’d come a long way since that horrible day in the hospital when Frank had told me the bad news. Tears didn’t well in my eyes like they once might have. I touched King’s arm, stroking it until I rested my hands over his. “I love you, Abe.”

“Keeping his ring on doesn’t mean you love me less, and I’m not jealous of him. You loved him, and I’m okay with that. You lost him and you deserve to take this at your pace. If you’re not fully ready to take that ring off, don’t. If you’re never ready, that’s okay, too.” He turned his palm over, entwining our fingers, and he squeezed my hand. “I’m willing to share you with him for the rest of our lives if I have to. Without Hunter, H.J. wouldn’t exist, and I may never have found you.”

I spun in his arms and kissed him hard, curling my arms around his neck. I dragged him closer and held him as tight as I could until we were breathless and needed to break the connection of our mouths. “I love you. How was I so lucky to find you?”

“I can ask you the same thing.” He held my waist and dragged me a little closer. “Promise me you won’t take that ring off for me. If you ever do it, it needs to be for you.”

My eyes did get wet then. I nodded and pressed a sweet kiss on his mouth. “I promise.”

H.J. chose the moment to come barreling into the room, nearly tripping over the carpet.

“Be careful!” I chastised, but his answer was a laugh so amused that my heart clenched with love in my chest.

King kissed me one more time before he chased H.J. out of the room again. H.J.’s cries of excitement filled the house.

I stared down at my ring and kissed the band, the heat of it comforting against my lips. “Thank you, Hunter,” I whispered.

I decided that I’d keep the band on for a little longer.

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