The Third Season
Parental Advisory Rating: L, N, AC
Break out those V-Chips, everyone!
Created, Produced, Directed and Written:
Fanatic and TNovan
Episode Sixteen: Thanksgiving
I get up early, leaving Kels to sleep and later start fussing around the house, as Mama would call it. Between Kels little scare last week and the awards ceremony tonight, Im a walking ball of energy with nothing to do.
Thats the ticket.
I pull on my sneakers and head over to my brothers house. As I approach the back door, I hear the kitchen is alive with voices. Seems everyone is up. I give a knock, and the door is pulled open by Christian.
"Tante Harper!" He throws himself at my legs. Well, what do you know, he still loves me too.
I scoop him up. "Hi there, little man."
He gives me a hug and looks behind me. Then he looks to me with raised brows. "Aunt Kels?"
"Is still sleeping."
"Is the babies still sleeping?"
"They must be or Aunt Kels wouldnt be." Aint that the truth?
"You want some cereal?"
"Yes, Harper, come in and have some cereal," Rene growls. "We have at least three different types; two of which are on the floor."
Ooo, my sister is feeling a little grumpy.
"Im getting it, sweetheart." I hear Robie mumble. I kneel down to find him mopping up Cheerios from under the breakfast table.
I burst out laughing.
"You think its funny now." He glares at me. "Christian, get back to the table and eat your breakfast."
I put him down.
"Yes, Papa." My nephew has been duly chastised and he knows it.
Through my laughter I manage to offer, "Want some help?"
"Nah, I got it." He finishes up, then backs out from under the table.
I watch him move to the sink and rinse the towel. "Coffee, Harper?"
"Ill get it." I pour myself a mug and watch as Rene tries to get Clark to eat his breakfast.
Robie dries his hands on a towel and moves over to her. He rubs her shoulders and she moans in relief. "All cleaned up, sweetheart."
"Tell me again why Im having another baby?" she asks, spooning some cereal into her youngest son.
"Cause there are too many boys here," Christian pipes up between mouthfuls of Cheerios.
Its all I can do to choke back another laugh. Im guessing thats been a mantra around the household. Poor Rene. Majorly outnumbered.
Robie turns, crossing his arms over his chest. "You want something or did you just come over here to laugh at me and drink my coffee?"
"Well, hell, Robie, its good coffee." I make a show of taking a long sip.
"By the way, happy birthday," he says gruffly, but I know he means it.
"Oh, yes!" Rene stands up and comes over to me, giving me a huge hug and a kiss. "Happy birthday, Harper!"
"Christian, go get Tante Harpers gift." Rene prompts her eldest. He slides off the chair and runs toward the living room. He comes back carrying three small boxes that are tied together.
I bend down and accept the gifts from him. "Merci, petit homme."
I open the top box and find a pair of Fossil sunglasses. Oh yeah. Ill look good in these. I pull them out and try them on, noticing immediately that they have prescription lenses. "These are great!" I exclaim.
Robie nods. "I noticed while we were out on our bikes that you didnt have sunglasses with your new eye stuff. So I made a call to Kels."
A light bulb goes off. "Thats why she asked the name of my optometrist the other day. Thanks, guys."
"Open the others," Christian urges me.
I do. Inside are two tiny little pairs of sunglasses, obviously for the twins. I crack up imagining them wearing them, looking too cool for school. Or daycare.
"I picked them out."
I smile at Christian. "Thank you. Theyll love them."
"Im gonna have a Kels too." He tells me proudly.
"Shes ours. You cant have her."
I nod solemnly. "All right. But you have to take care of her. You know that everyone named Kelsey is very, very special."
"I will," Christian vows.
"So, other than to collect presents, why did you come over here, Harper?" Robie teases. "Is everything all right at home with Kels?"
"Actually, I came over to see if you could come out and shoot some hoops, but I can see "
"No, no, actually, Harper, thats a great idea." Rene smiles at me. "Take him," she points to Robie, "and him." She gestures to Christian. "And go over to your house to play."
* * *
Kam and Christian are romping and playing in the yard while Robie and I shoot hoops in my driveway. Its not our regular court at the park, but this is good too.
"What I dont get," I bounce the ball, "is how a woman can have labor pains that get to ten minutes apart and then they simply stop. Its like: commit; or dont start it at all." I say things to Robie that I could never say to Kels. Shed kick my ass for that comment.
"Dont try to understand it, Harper. Just be glad you got here in time."
"Just barely." I shoot, the ball rolls around the rim once then falls in. I shoot, I score. "Especially after Rene made me take a shower before heading to the hospital."
He grabs the ball. "Yeah, but you did make it. Plus, Rene said you stank to high heaven when you came in the door."
Gotta love pigs. "I never should have gone away " Im still pissed at Langston. I cant believe he called me. I cant believe I went.
"Okay, dont start beating yourself up over that. Youve got to face the fact: with your job youre gonna miss things."
"Huh?" I hadnt even thought of that.
"Im sorry, Harper. But youre not going to be able to be with them all the time. What are you gonna do when theyre about six months and you call home and Kels tells you Brennan sat up or Collin started crawling?"
Oh, God. That simply cant happen. "No. Ill be there for those things." I snatch the ball back.
"I work twenty minutes from home. The day Rene called me at my office so Christian could say Pa to me for the first time my heart nearly broke. He had said it to her a half hour before."
* * *
I take a moment from applying my makeup to watch Harper pace back and forth past the bathroom door as she silently rehearses her speech. She looks great, wearing a gorgeous Armani suit. The drape of it on her body is perfect, highlighting her natural beauty. "Relax," I call to her.
"Easy for you to say. Youre accustomed to being in front of a crowd. Youre used to people looking at you, waiting for you to say something. Im a producer for a reason."
"Right," I reply, carefully applying my mascara. Nothing I hate worse than poking myself in the eye. "And the reason youre a producer?"
"I dont like being the center of attention."
"Yeah, right." I snort. Im surprised she managed to keep a straight face while telling me that blatant lie. "Tell me another one, Tabloid."
She comes in and leans her butt against the bathroom counter with her back to the mirror. "Okay, I like being the center of your attention."
I love it when she looks at me that way. I love that she looks at me that way when I am almost nine months pregnant. Somehow I know itll be the same in fifty years. "Kiss me quick, Stud, before I put the lipstick on."
She leans over and indulges my request with a nice kiss. Dinner? Award? Were supposed to do something tonight other than snuggle down in front of the fireplace? "Air " I manage to choke and pull back a bit. "Be good, brat." I give her a jab and reach for my makeup once more.
"I thought that was good." She wiggles her brows at me.
"It was and if you keep it up we wont make it to the awards dinner."
* * *
We meet Mama and Papa at the Ritz Carlton on Canal Street where Tulane is having its award banquet. I feel a rush of excitement. Its my birthday. Im getting an award from my alma mater. Its great to be out at an event like this. I have my girl on my arm, and she looks fabulous. I dont know how she manages to find these incredible outfits that still make her look exceptional even when pregnant. I note the way her hair curls behind her ear, landing gracefully on her neck. God, I love that neck. Her green eyes seem to sparkle, highlighted by the emerald and diamond earrings and matching necklace she wears.
Robie and Rene drove over with us. I insisted on bringing the Lexus. Never can tell when I might need that map feature. I have asked Brennan and Collin, very nicely, to stay put for the evening. It wont be very long. We have a reception to do first. This will entail the honorees, the trustees of the university, the administration and various department heads, and our family members mingling over cocktails and appetizers. Then we will go into the ballroom for dinner and remarks, followed by dessert. During which I and the other honorees will give short speeches telling how wonderful we are and how smart they were to honor us. Not in so many words, of course.
I have given the twins permission to come tomorrow. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. While not technically my birthday, it is symbolically my birthday as I arrived along with the turkey. Itd be fun to share that with the kids.
So, if everything goes well mingle, eat, speak, and, in the morning, head to Mamas for good food. After the fried turkey, I will take Kels to the hospital and we will greet our two new children.
I put it in my Palm Vx. Thats how its gonna be.
Papa interrupts my planning when he comes over and nudges me. "What are you looking so happy about, Harper Lee?"
"Life is sweet, Papa. Isnt it?"
He gives me a knowing smile. "Ive always thought so." He reaches over and takes a proffered glass of wine from an attendant and hands it to me, then takes one for himself. He raises his glass. "To my baby girl who has always made me the proudest papa anywhere. Happy birthday and congratulations!"
I swallow the lump in my throat. "Thanks, Papa."
"Is your speech ready?"
I shrug, trying to appear nonchalant, despite the fact Ive spent hours on a five minute talk. "I think so. I attribute everything I am to you and Mama and then get off the dais." That wouldnt be far from the actual truth.
"Harper Lee, the greatest thing your Mama and I ever did with our children is get the hell out of their way. We loved you, we gave you opportunities, and the like, but, when it came time for you to make your way in the world, we stepped aside. Not one of you has disappointed us."
"Really? Even me?" Especially how I was living before.
"Especially you." We sip our wine and Papa spies Mama across the crowd. He smiles the way I have only seen directed toward her. "Excuse me, Cecile seems to need me over there." Thirty-eight years of marriage later, theyre still on their honeymoon.
I look across the room for my significant other and I see her conversing with Rene. I will be forever grateful for the friendship they have. Robie has been my best friend and confidant since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. I love Rene like no other. And Christian and Clark could be mine if parenthood was awarded on strength of emotion. To see Kels so fully integrated into my family is a joy I had never expected to know.
"Harper Kingsley," a deep baritone rumbles near my ear, "I am so glad you left that tabloid sensationalism nonsense and have gone legitimate."
I turn and find my first journalism professor. Oh well, time to face the music.
* * *
I grip my sisters arm and take Rene over to the corner, away from the crowd in the lobby. "Sister, dear?"
"Yes?" She studies me for a moment, reading my expression effortlessly. She lifts a knowing brow. "How far apart, Kels?"
"About ten minutes."
"Lot harder than the last time," I manage to admit. "I had thought I was in labor for a couple hours. It wasnt too bad before, but its picking up speed and intensity."
"We need to get Harper and get you to the hospital."
"No. I dont want to ruin this for her. Shes nervous enough and this is a big deal. Come on, shes just turned twenty-seven and shes being honored by her alma mater for her accomplishments in her field. All I have to do is make it through this cocktail hour, push some rubber chicken around my plate, listen to her speech and then we can go to the hospital. No big deal."
"Rene," I grip her hand. "Please. I need you to help me over to our table. Weve got a couple of hours. Hopefully, thatll be enough time."
"I dont know which of the two of you is more stubborn." She raises her hand and waves Robie over.
He has a smile on his face until he get a look at me, then it fades. "Oh boy, here we go again."
"This time its not gonna stop, Robie," Rene assures him. "Help her go sit at our table. I need to find Mama and Papa." Rene hurries in the last direction we saw them.
Robie offers me his arm. I grip it, not willing to let the one lifeline I have leave me at the moment.
He leans over and whispers to me, "Come on, Kels, deep, easy breaths."
I do as he says, and turn to him. "You done this before havent you, big boy?" I tease, blowing out a breath.
"A couple." He gives me a patented Kingsley smile. "But Rene would say I merely helped."
"Im glad one of us has experience of some kind."
"Youre doing great, Kels." He gently rubs my hand. "As soon as Rene gets back, Ill find Harper and well get you to the hospital."
"Robie, please. We both know this can take hours. Lets see if I can get through this dinner. This is huge for Harper."
"So is the birth of the babies. My goodness, shes been bouncing off the walls since Mardi Gras."
"I know but theres no reason she cant have both. Im uncomfortable but other than that Im doing okay. Dr. Maxton himself said not to come until the contractions were eight minutes apart. I promise you, the moment I time one at eight minutes, were out of here."
* * *
The honorees are spread out at tables in the center of the ballroom. Each of us were allowed to bring five guests, and the table occupants are completed with people from the university. Since Mama and Papa have donated a significant amount of money to the university, the chancellor, his wife and daughter are seated with us.
The cocktail hour was fun. After Professor Reilly gave me a hard time, we had a very interesting discussion about the media. I never imagined myself speaking to him as a professional in the area. And when he asked my opinion on the whole media coverage of the presidential election, I nearly fell over. He found it humorous that one of my colleagues in Northern Ireland offered to send over election monitors in 2004.
Dinner isnt too bad, surprisingly. We each have a choice of filet mignon, roasted Cornish hen, or lobster. I had to explain to Kels that there are no vegetarians in New Orleans. Shes been picking at her salad for most of the dinner hour.
"You not hungry, chér?" I ask, leaning close. I didnt need to lean close for this question, I just wanted to smell her perfume.
She tilts her head closer to my lips. "Not really. I think one of the twins is sitting on my stomach."
"Soon, sweetheart. Soon itll all be over."
Kels gives me an enigmatic smile. "This is true. Are you having a happy birthday?"
I nod vigorously. "Absolutely. I only wish a couple of the nuns from my parochial school were here for this. According to one, I am supposed to be burning in the unquenchable fires of hell right about now."
Under the table, Kels reaches over and clasps my hand. "You really should be nicer to nuns, Harper." Her grip on my hand intensifies momentarily.
"You talking about Sister Clarice?" Robie asks, leaning across Rene to join our conversation.
"Mais oui, she hated me."
"And you did nothing to deserve that." His voice is heavy with sarcasm. He knows what I did to deserve it. To this day, I still dont see what was so bad about putting a small flock of chickens in the choir balcony. They sounded better than the nuns did. I couldnt go see Sister Act for that very reason. Too great a call for suspension of disbelief. Singing nuns, my ass.
Mama looks over at us and focuses on Kelsey. "How are you doing, ma petit?"
"Im fine, Mama."
Mama resumes her conversation with the chancellors wife.
Huh. Wonder whats up with that.
* * *
"News and entertainment are becoming almost indistinguishable." I adjust my glasses slightly as I glance down at my speech. I wrote it down, in case I got up here and had a brain freeze. Im doing okay so far, but that was only my opening line. "The rise of sensationalism is obvious to even a casual watcher of the evening news. All to often, journalists aspire to be both celebrity-makers and celebrities themselves."
I look out at the audience and smile at Kels. I dont seem to catch her eye, however, which is a bit upsetting. I was kind of hoping she would be gazing at me adoringly. Instead she is whispering to Rene.
"Further clouding the picture is the corporate ownership of the news organizations. When Disney owns ABC and Time Warner owns CNN, the fear of corporate creativity extending to the news room is not necessarily misplaced."
Now Kels is talking to Mama. Hello! Is anyone paying attention to me?
I clear my throat, hoping theyll get the hint.
"I have certainly participated in this degradation of the news profession in my own career, for which I have already been duly chastised by Professor Reilly." I pause for the laughter due to my humorous, impromptu comment. It comes.
But not from my familys table. They now all seem to be in a bit of a heated discussion. What in the world could be more important than me right now? This lack of interest rattles me, and I am forced to scan down my notes once more.
"So I am extremely honored and humbled by this recognition from the alma mater I hold so dear to my heart. We hear talk of self made men, but I am pleased that many have had their hand in shaping me. Of course, my family " I continue my tribute to my family, but rather mindlessly because I am distracted. Robie is now looking directly at me and twitching his head about.
What the hell? Is he trying to get me to screw up my speech?
I pause again, removing my glasses and folding them up. I slide them in my coat pocket, hoping that if I cant see my family so clearly, they wont annoy me as much. There. Thats better. I fall back into the easy cadence of my comments.
" promoting the responsible reporting of events as they take place, and not as we imagine them."
Robie gets up and walks around the table and helps Kels climb to her feet.
Listen to your own advice, Harper. See the event taking place, not what you imagine it to be.
Youre going to become a Mama. Of course, youll still be standing up here droning on and on while Kels is in the hospital.
Mama and Rene follow Robie and Kels as they head out of the ballroom. Papa stands up and crooks his finger at me.
"I have to go," I tell the audience. "Im having my babies now."
* * *
As soon as the car door closes, I slide into Harpers arms, resting my head on her shoulder. Her arms wrap around me and she holds me close. "You should have told me," she grumbles at me. "How are you, chér?" She rubs my belly very tenderly.
Taking a deep breath, I manage to answer her. "Didnt want to ruin " I grip her jacket as the pain increases. "Sorry."
"Are you kidding? This is the perfect birthday present to me, chér." I feel her kiss the top of my head and pull me closer. "How far apart?"
"Eight minutes. Its going to happen this time. You ready?"
"No. Are you?"
"No, but I dont have much choice now." I glance up to the front seat. Robie and Rene have everything under control. Somehow Im grateful Harpers not driving. Being back here in her arms is much more satisfying.
I grip her hand and take a deep breath, holding it against the pain.
"No. Now, come on, Little Roo. Breathe. You know, let it out slowly. Come on."
I nod and do it. I knew she was here for a reason. Motherhood and childbirth may be a natural process, but this whole breathing through it thing is a real gray area.
* * *
I look at the IV in the back of my hand. I watch the progress of the saline from the bag hung by the bed and down to my hand. Funny the things you notice between contractions.
"More ice?" I glance over to Harper and simply shake my head at her question.
Shes trying so hard to be helpful, but Im not much of a conversationalist right now. I think shes feeling like Im upset with her.
The contractions are six minutes apart. The nurses are continually checking on me and all is going well. Dr. Maxton arrived a little after midnight, came in gave me an exam, made sure all his orders were being carried out, and then announced he was going to his office to take a nap.
What I wouldnt give to be able to nap right now. Im already feeling tired and we havent even begun to get serious here yet.
Harper combs her fingers through my hair. "Is there anything I can do for you, sweetheart?"
"My back." She knows immediately what I want and she moves to the other side of the bed and begins rubbing my lower back.
All I can do is nod, and breathe through yet another contraction. "Time." This is Harpers cue to keep track of the duration and how far apart theyre coming now.
The door opens and I glance up to find Rene. She comes over to the bed and takes my hand. "How are you doing?"
"Kay," I manage. I dont need to try to explain what it feels like to be in constant pain to Rene. She understands all ready.
"Five minutes," Harper says quietly. Shes still dutifully rubbing my back. "Howd you get in here?"
Rene laughs, rubbing her belly. "Seems I have the perfect disguise for moving around a maternity ward. The rest of the family would come back but they dont want to overwhelm Kels." She smiles at me. "But I wanted to know how you were doing. Ill take a report back."
"Tell em Im fine." I manage a smile now that the pain has passed. "But this is all Harpers fault."
Rene laughs. "Thats it, now youve truly got a grasp of what labor is all about. You can now blame her for everything from the Kennedy assassination to taxes."
I hear Harper groan. Rene smiles at her, pointing a finger. "You just hush and sit there and take it. Its the least you can do," she teases.
I imagine Harper meekly nodding and resigning herself to her fate for the night. God, please, dont let me be too mean to her.
When I can only whimper with the next, far more painful contraction, Harpers hand on my back increases pressure, trying to rub away the pain.
Rene leans in and gives my forehead a kiss. "Good job, Kels. Im gonna go now. Well see you all later."
I am barely aware of Harper talking to me, but I know its her voice and its soothing. I automatically do whatever it is she tells me to do.
* * *
This is it.
I swallow hard and focus, holding Kels up so she can push. I hear her panting next to my ear, feel the sweat of her hair against my cheek, and smell on her breath the last traces of the mints I gave her before we were moved to the delivery room.
This is really it.
Soon, I will hold a little life in my hands and it will be a part of me. A part of us. A part of our family. And then, after that, another.
A son and a daughter both looking to me for guidance, for love, for nurturing, for protection. For all the things my parents provided so unselfishly while I was growing up. And still do.
Two more forevers.
Kels is one to me. Forever such a part of me that I cant tell where I end and she begins. Forever the best of my dreams, the champion of my hope.
Now Brennan and Collin join her in that rarefied space of my heart. Flesh giving birth to kindred flesh, joyously embracing its own. From the first touch here in this tear-stained room, to the final moments in another, they are mine.
And, more importantly, I am theirs.
"Oh!" Kels gasps, bearing down both on our children and on my hand. "Hurts."
I kiss her hair, right behind her ear. "Youre doing great, chér. Just a little more for this one." The strong heartbeats we hear on the fetal monitors comfort me.
No chance of going back now. Just as Kels is fully committed to giving birth, I have to be fully committed to parenting. No more bad ass days. No more living for myself and my own needs and wants.
And yet I gain the world.
"I see the crown," Dr. Maxton informs us from the foot of the table. "Next contraction, I want you to push hard, Kelsey."
"Gladly," she grunts.
"Youve always been pushy," I tease.
"Watch it, Tabloid," I am warned.
I follow her command and watch in the rear view mirror as the contraction starts and we count it off. When we hit ten, Kels relaxes a bit. I can see the top of our firstborns head now, covered with the same wheat colored hair as Kels.
"Great job, Kelsey. Give me another push like that and the head will be out. Were well on our way here."
Another contraction, as Kels leans into it, I support her and we count once again. Shes got a lot of strength in those little hands. Im going to be bruised for weeks.
Doctor Maxton carefully guides our child as Kels groans and pushes yet again.
"Very good, Kelsey," he praises. "The head is out. One more push for the shoulders and youre done."
"Halfway," comes the correction. Never tell a woman having twins that shes almost done when even the first one isnt out yet.
We wait for the final contraction so Kels can bring our first child fully into the world. We see it coming on the monitor even before she feels it, although she feels it soon enough. She pushes and a tiny life escapes from her body into the doctors hands.
We both pause, hunched over, trying to see everything going on. Waiting, of course, for the scream which signals new life. We dont hear one.
I may be sick.
The doctor moves the umbilical cord aside and announces, "Its your daughter." He begins cleaning her and suctioning her mouth and nose with a small blue device.
Come on, Brennan. Say hello to mama. Give those old Kingsley lungs a workout.
On cue, Brennan opens her mouth and greets all of us with a healthy cry. This is followed by a hiccup and her little eyes fluttering open, wanting to examine the light which is bothering her sleep.
"Shes okay?" Kels asks for both of us. I am still too afraid to voice the question.
Doctor Maxton smiles. "Shes perfect. Harper, come cut the cord."
I obey. I kiss Kels head and walk to the end of the table. He places Brennan on Kels stomach and my spouse is immediately touching our daughter, like I want to. Maxton hands me a pair of surgical scissors and holds up the cord.
"Cut between the two clamps."
I do so. "Can I hold her?" I ask.
Maxton nods. "Absolutely." He is careful to examine Kels and make sure shes still stable after the first delivery. "You did great, Kelsey. One more and we can both get some sleep." He looks up and gives her a wink.
I move to the side and stare at Brennan, trying to come up with the best strategy for picking her up. Shes tiny. Shes maybe as long as my forearm and bright red. But I guess I would be too if I had to squeeze though such a tiny exit. She gurgles in my direction. She seems very content with the fact that Kels is holding onto her.
"Hi, Brennan Grace," I whisper, reaching out and stroking her tiny head with my fingertips. "Let me introduce you to your Mommy." Very carefully, I slide my hands under her and gently transport her up Kels torso, to rest her against Kels chest.
Kels presses a kiss to Brennans head and I try to memorize this moment. I never want to forget it. Ever.
Everything else in the room has receded and we are the only three people here. I put my hand on top of the one Kels has resting on Brennans back, holding my family. "Great work, chér." I lean over and give Kels a gentle kiss.
Kelsey is crying. I assume from joy and not pain; although, its probably a combination of both. "Is she all right?"
I look down at Brennan who seems fully content to sleep where she is. "Imagine that, a quiet Kingsley. Shes perfect, but we can take inventory." I roll Brennan over eliciting another cry, reassuring me more than I care to admit. On her back, we count fingers and toes, making sure all essential body parts are present and accounted for.
"She has your chin," I point out, touching the little body part in question. "And your hair."
"Shes tiny." Kels voice is full of wonder and choked emotion.
"Like her Mommy."
Kels winces, and I see on the monitor that her contractions have resumed. "Soon," she grits.
Sue, our OB nurse, touches my back. "We need to take her for a few minutes."
I almost growl. The thought of someone else touching my child right now is highly offensive. But I need to help my spouse bring our other child to us. I give the nurse a look meant to intimidate, then I gather Brennan up in my arms, holding her close for a long moment. "Youll be back soon, Brennan Grace. Mama loves you." I kiss her again, reluctant to let her go.
"Harper!" Kels calls.
I hand my child over and resume my position behind Kels, supporting her. "Just one more, sweetheart. Almost done now."
"Im so tired." She whimpers a bit. "I cant, Harper, I just "
"Yes, you can, Kels. Were almost done, Little Roo. Youre doing great! Come on, darlin"
"God, it hurts so much!"
I look over at Maxton. Throughout the whole labor Kels hasnt complained in a serious manner of pain. This concerns me.
What truly terrifies me is when I hear an alarm go off.
"Whats going on?" Kels asks, gripping my forearms so hard I know Ill have more bruises.
Maxton looks up from his position at the end of the table. "We have a posterior presentation." This comment is made to his staff rather than to us. The people around us start preparing to move at a seconds notice on his word.
"Huh?" Kels asks, the pain and fear not letting his message get through.
"Hes coming out butt first." I actually understood that, despite the stress of the moment. "What do you need to do, doc?" I ask. I suspect I know the answer.
"We may have to do a C-section, but Im going to try to turn him first."
"Is everything all right?" Kels groans as another contraction hits her.
"I need you to not push anymore, Kelsey. I know its hard, but relax, and let me do all the work for a second."
I watch as he tries to move Collin around inside Kels. He doesnt try for very long. His brows come together and he shakes his head. "No good. Prolapse. Lets get the tent up."
Sue comes over to our side. "Everything is going to be fine. We just need to take him. Hes coming out backwards and it appears that he has a prolapsed cord."
"What does that mean?" I ask.
"Hes not getting enough oxygen."
"Oh God!" Kels cries, gripping my hand tighter.
"Its going to be fine, Kels." Lord, make it so. I couldnt handle losing our son. Come on, Collin, you just get yourself here. Stop scaring your mother. And me.
I get pushed back to stand behind Kels head as she is laid down on the table. I watch as the nurses spring into action. One hooks up a fresh IV on Kels arm, another is setting up a surgical tent around her stomach. Sue comes over with a shot for Kels. "Just relax. Were going to get him out just fine."
Kels nods and her eyes flutter shut. I am told to stay where I am to not contaminate the surgical area.
I am alone.
Kels is under anesthesia now, her body given over to the ministrations of the medical staff. Our son is in their care, his life bound up in their ability to work quickly. Our daughter is somewhere being weighed, measured, footprinted, and cared for. I wish I could hold her right now. Perhaps I wouldnt be so scared.
My hand goes to Kels hair and I stroke it gently. Hopefully she will feel me. This is what she feared for months. I fight the tears as I finally understand it. I pray to God I dont have to make that awful decision. I dont want to lose either one of them.
I am tall, but not tall enough to see whats happening directly. I have to rely on the mirror positioned above. I watch, a bit queasily, as they make a slice across Kels stomach. Its not as big as I expected to be.
I look away as blood comes out of the woman I love. We knew shed probably have to deliver at least one child by C-section, but I still hate seeing it. After a moment, I glance up again to watch Maxtons hands disappear inside Kels to retrieve our boy. Come on, buddy, you be okay.
I get my first glimpse of Collin and I am terrified. Hes gray, not like Brennan who was an angry red, annoyed at having to leave her warm and comfy home. Hes not moving, which is even scarier. Im glad Kels is asleep for this. I will have nightmares for years.
He hands Collin to Sue who immediately takes him over to a warmer bed. I want to go right there, as well, but am rooted where I am.
Please, let me hear a cry, Collin. Its too early in your life to be giving me gray hair.
I watch as they clean him up, rubbing his tiny body to help the circulation and use a big suction catheter to clear his airway and remove any excess fluid. I gag watching it. Once they remove it, they turn him toward an oxygen source. All the while, they are talking to him, encouraging him to give them a reaction.
Speak up, son.
One of the nurses is beside Kels, trying to wake her up. Dont wake her up for this. Let her sleep through it. If anything happens to Collin, I dont want her to remember anything. Its bad enough I will.
An angry cry breaks through the tense silence in the room.
"Merci, Bon Dieu," I whisper. My knees give out and I sink down behind Kels. I catch myself on the table and discover that I am crying as I watch tears fall down on the metal. Collin continues to cry in the background. I will never complain hearing that noise again. He is safe. He is here.
I need to go to him. He needs to be welcomed to the family.
I push myself up and walk unsteadily over to the warmer. Sue looks up at me compassionately, having seen too many parents go through this type of scare, others with a far worse ending. Hes getting color and squirming around. He objects as Sue attaches a band around his ankle and then wraps him in a blanket.
"May I?" I ask, barely loud enough to be heard over my boys screaming.
In reply, Sue picks him up and places him in my arms.
Five pounds never felt this good. I hold him as tightly as I dare, kissing every inch of his face and head. Where Brennan is fair, he has thick, dark hair, which, I now notice, is standing up Don King style. I smooth it down and begin talking to him. "Bon jour, little man. I am so happy to see you."
He sucks in a deep breath, about to scream again, but doesnt. Instead, he yawns.
"Thats right. Its okay. You have nothing to be scared about. Mama is here." He frowns, as if considering my worthiness. "Yeah, its me. The one with the penlight. The one who reads you Green Eggs and Ham. You know me."
Collins mouth forms a small o.
"Dont you ever scare me like that again, okay? My heart cant take it. Your poor Mommy was frightened too." I turn around and look over. The doctor has finished removing the placenta, being sure to save the cord blood from both twins as we had requested, and sewing Kels up. Shes coming to. I hear her groggily ask for me and Collin. "Were right here, chér."
"Collin?" she asks.
I hold him down where she can see him. "Present and accounted for."
Her eyes flutter as she looks at him. "Okay?"
"Hes fine. You know the Kingsley men, always ass backwards. He fits right in." A little humor never hurt a situation Ive found. I am rewarded with a small smile. "You relax, sweetie. Youve done a lot of hard work tonight. And these two are going to give us a run for our money here soon. Get some sleep. Well be here when you wake up."
* * *
I am allowed to carry Collin up to the nursery where he too will be weighed, measured, footprinted and examined. He is now looking much better, a robust pink, and he is as alert as someone less than an hour old can be. There we find his sister who is now sleeping contentedly in a little bassinet. She is wrapped in a pink blanket and has a little pink cap on her head, obscuring most of her blonde hair. I lay Collin down where Sue directs me, and I bend over to drop a kiss on Brennans cheek.
"Shes yours too?" another nurse asks. I nod my reply, for some reason I am a bit too choked up to verbalize my response. "Shes beautiful."
"She is," I whisper, finding my voice.
Sue looks over from where she is tending to my son. "Have you told the rest of your family?"
I bet Mama is crawling the walls about now.
"I should do that." Soon. Before Mama can do damage to either people or facilities.
The nurse gives me a very kind smile, recognizing me to be in a haze. "Yes, that would be good. By the time youve told them, well have moved the twins back down to Kelseys room. Theyll be there when you get back."
"Wonderful." I wander over to the doorway, reluctant to leave them, even though I need to. "Thanks for all your help."
I am amazed that I am able to navigate the hospital corridors well enough to find the maternity waiting room. There I find Mama, awake, alert and annoyed. I think even if I had been coming out to the family with hourly updates, it wouldnt have been enough.
I memorize this moment as well. Mama nudges Papa awake; Robie continues stroking Renes hair, as her head rests in his lap and she is fast asleep. "Theyre absolutely beautiful and perfect." I cant really use the traditional Its a boy! line, since we already knew what we were having.
Mama lets out a whoop and suddenly all is forgiven. She rushes over and throws her arms around me. She hugs me so tightly, I feel my breath squeezed out. "A gift from God," she whispers.
"So they dont look like you, eh?" Robie asks.
Rene slaps his thigh. Mamas cry awakened her it seems. She rubs a hand over her own burgeoning stomach wherein another Kelsey is taking form and substance. I wonder what lucky man or woman will get to love her one day.
"How is Kelsey?" Mama asks.
"Shes all right, sleeping." I look at my watch. Five-thirty in the morning. She deserves sleep after all shes done tonight.
"How was the delivery?" This is Renes question.
"Brennan came out easy as can be. But Collin gave us a little trouble. He tried to come out the wrong end first, so Dr. Maxton had to go in and give him a little help."
"She had to have a C-section?" Papa clarifies.
"Yeah. For a moment, I was sure we had lost him." I feel my heart and throat clutch at the thought. I force myself to take a deep breath and to recall his solid weight in my arms only a few moments ago. He is here. Alive and well. "But hes fine now. I think he simply wanted attention since Brennan had stolen first place."
"Kelsey is fine?"
I squeeze Mamas hand in reassurance. "Absolutely, Mama. Shes sleeping right now. The twins are being looked at and then theyll be brought into the room." I am suddenly exhausted. "In fact, Im going to go join them for a little while."
Mama is now appeased. "We will come back later in the day after youve all had a chance to rest. Then we can do the proper introductions. What a happy Thanksgiving this is!"
* * *
Every muscle in my body hurts. Thats the first thing Im aware of. I have muscles hurting that I didnt even know existed.
Then I remember. Im a mom.
I turn my head and open my eyes. I smile. There they are, all three of them. Harper is settled into a rocking chair and has two tiny bundles cuddled close to her. She rocking gently and speaking to them very quietly.
"Hey, Tabloid." I smile and reach out. "Who do you have there?"
"Ooo, my little ones, look who has decided to join the party. Its your Mommy. Lets go meet her, shall we? Shes pretty wonderful. I think well keep her."
She carefully gets out of the chair and joins me on the bed. Moving slowly, I use the control to bring the back of it up a little more. I like this bed. Its wide, so theres plenty of room for all of us.
Harper is extra careful when she climbs in next to me. The first thing I see, cuddled deep in a blanket in the crook of her left arm, is a tiny head with thick, dark hair peeking out at me from under a very silly, little, blue cap. I reach out and push the blanket back a bit to look into the most serene face Ive ever seen.
"Say hello to our son, Little Roo." She shifts to make it possible for me to take him in my arms.
The tears begin now. I let them fall unabated as I bring his tiny hand to my lips and kiss it. My God, Im holding my son in my arms. I bring him close and whisper, "Welcome, Collin, I love you."
"And this," she has now moved his sister so I can see her as well, "is his big sister."
"Older," I correct with a little laugh, knowing how she is with her brothers.
"Right," she says dryly. "Brennan, say hi to your Mommy." She pulls the blanket back. "Shes a little smart-aleckie, but we love her."
My daughter flails a little hand at me and yawns as if shes completely bored with the whole situation already. Then her hand returns to her mouth and she begins sucking on it.
I wipe the tears from my cheeks. "Theyre beautiful, Harper. Absolutely beautiful." I look back to my son again. I cant believe theyre really here and seem so content. "Have they eaten yet?"
"Yeah. You were pretty out of it, sweetheart. I had to give them the bottles we prepared earlier. I hope thats okay."
I smile at her. "Of course, it is. They had to eat." Im glad she got to do it. I know she enjoyed every moment of it.
"You know," I address my son, "you had me pretty scared." I look to my daughter. "You both did. So lets make a deal to cut that out right now."
"Ah, weve already had this chat, Little Roo. They promised to be good from now on."
"Good." I lean up and give her a kiss. "Thank you."
"Oh no, chér, thank you. You have truly made my life complete today. You did good."
"We did good, Harper Lee. Think we can keep it up for another twenty years or so?"
"Twenty? Fifty, fifty-five, sixty. You name it. Plus, I dont think we have much choice." She places a kiss to Brennans forehead.
"Theyre so tiny." I am amazed when Collin wraps a small hand around my little finger. "Are they really okay?" I cant help but marvel at the tiny little fingernails. He looks like he recently had a manicure.
"They are perfect, Kels. Absolutely perfect."
"So which one is the troublemaker?"
"You have to ask?" She chuckles a bit, lifting her chin at our son. "A true male Kingsley. He came into the world backwards, and has been complaining about it like its my fault since he got here. Hes exactly like his uncles."
I laugh then force myself to stop. It hurts too much. "Oh, dont do that. Im way too sore for that."
"You had quite the workout today."
"The best one ever."
* * *
I reluctantly left Kels and the children early this morning. I needed a shower, Kels politely told me. I also needed to change out of my suit, and pick up a few things for my girl. I couldnt sleep. I was too excited.
Its nearly eleven in the morning when I finally arrive at the hospital, my arms loaded with packages. One of the nurses takes pity on me and opens the door to Kels room. Kels is awake and sitting up in bed, absolutely glowing. "Good morning, chér."
Kels laughs at me. "Morning, Tabloid. You mug Santa?"
I carefully wind my way over to the empty chair and put the stack of boxes down. "Nah, just a little elf. You aint seen nothing yet, darlin." Once my arms are free, I go over to the bed and lean down to give my wife a proper greeting. Oh yeah, shes good at this. "How are you feeling?" I ask when we break apart.
"Im good. Sore. A little tired." She glances over at Collins bassinet. "Your son decided he needed to be fed about four times last night."
"Is everything all right?" The little guy concerns me. "Is he getting enough? Or has he just found a good thing?" I say the last with a little leer, hoping to inject some levity despite my concern.
"Everything is fine. Hes simply got a very healthy appetite." She reaches out and rubs my hand. It soothes me immediately. "The nurses tell me its normal for them to want a little extra at first. Give him a few days and itll settle down."
"Okay." I squeeze Kels hand and go over to the chair, grabbing the huge bouquet of flowers on top. It has an abundance of freesia, her favorite flower, in it. The scent is amazing. "For you." I present them to her.
"Thank you, Tabloid. Youre sweet."
I reach over and grab one of the boxes. I hand it to her. "For you."
"Ah, I see you thought of everything," she says as she pulls out a crystal vase. "You want to do the honors?" I dutifully take the vase and go into the bathroom, filling it up with water. I come back and arrange the flowers in it, as Kels continues. "By the way, did you call Kendra and tell her about the babies? I know there are a few people at work who were waiting for word."
"I left a voicemail. One for her, one for Langston and one for Frankie. Although, I bet it was rather incomprehensible. I was a little tired." I retrieve another box from the chair and press it into Kels hands.
"Youre a case. You keep this up and youre gonna go broke." She begins unwrapping the next present.
"I like spoiling you." I watch, enjoying this quiet time with my girl.
"Ooo, well, now, I must admit I like being spoiled. And just as soon as I can get some help getting clean up, Im changing into these." She drapes the top of the new fleece sweat suit across her chest. The dark green color brings out shade of her eyes. "Its gonna feel so good to wear my regular clothes again."
"Darlin, you know if you need help getting cleaned up, Im your gal." I steal a quick kiss and then hand the last of the presents over. It goes with the theme right now. This package has the sheerest, sexiest, damn nightgown Ive ever seen. I cant wait to see it on Kels. For a brief moment. After that, itll be more the thought that counts kinda thing.
Kels holds it up by its straps and shakes her head, amused at me. "Its umm well, its probably going to be awhile, you know? Im gonna need some time. But, I promise you, the minute Im ready." She stops and returns my leer. "Youll know it."
"See, that was my plan. You know how I feel about you. So rather than bugging you about it, when youre ready, just show up in the bedroom in that. I guarantee you, youll get a warm reception."
I enjoy watching the blush steal across her cheeks. "Well, Stud, Im not sure the body is quite ready for this yet, but I guarantee you two things. One, when Im ready, there will be no doubt in your mind. And, two, as soon as the body is ready for this, itll get put to good use."
I close the distance between us, setting aside the box. "I want you to know that I love you more than anyone or anything else in this world. So Im going to ask for your indulgence and forgiveness ahead of time." At my wifes quizzical look, I continue. "I figure Im going to be slightly insane over our children. I know, its hard to believe." We both laugh at this obvious exaggeration. "But I want you to know that I know none of this would be possible if it werent for you."
"We did this together." I lean into her hand as it caresses my cheek. "I couldnt have done it without you and the family." She shakes her head, her expression wistful. "I dont think I would have made it this far without you."
I capture her hand and press a kiss to her palm. "Youll never be alone ever again, chér. I swear it."
A loud cry pierces through our intimate moment. We both look over to see who the offending child is. "And right on cue, your daughter proves your point."
I join in Kels laughter, leaning over to scoop up a very cranky girl. Barely one day old and the kid has a championship set of lungs on her. I hold her and am mesmerized by her form. She turns to my chest, obviously seeking something I dont have. Well, I do have, but my tank is empty. I hand her over. "I think she wants you."
Kels exchanges the nightgown for our daughter. She begins feeding her and I simply watch yet another miracle in my life.
* * *
"Oh, he does not!" Harper argues even as she places Brennan in the bassinet so she can sleep.
"Yes, he does." I stroke Collins cheek and he does it again. His little, bottom lip pokes out. "He pouts the same way you do."
"I dont pout."
"Tell me another one, Tabloid." I open my gown and bring him to my breast for his first feeding. Brennans went very well and Im a little more confident with my ability to do it now. "Ouch! Was he born with teeth?" Hes got a strong suckling instinct. He gets that naturally from his Mama. "Whoa!"
Harper finds this amusing, nearly spitting her coffee halfway across the room.
"Yeah, laugh it up, lady. You wont think its so funny while youre banished."
"Dont even tease about that." She settles on the edge of the bed to watch our son eat. "How about I go find you some food?"
"Yes, please. Im starved."
"Ill bet you are. You gonna be okay with them while Im gone?"
"Yeah, well be fine. Can you bring his bassinet closer, and bring Brennan closer too?"
"I can do that." She takes a moment to do so. "You know, when I get back we should try to get you up for a walk."
"I know, but you have to promise to take it slow and easy on me."
"You have my word." She leans over and gives me a kiss. Then she smiles at our son and runs her finger over his cheek.
I can tell by the look on her face that her offer of getting me breakfast is a thought long forgotten.
"Wife. Food. Remember me?"
She gives me a sheepish grin. "Right. Ill be back soon."
I can tell she doesnt want to leave but she does.
"I promise, Tabloid, well be here when you get back."
* * *
With Collin fed and settled, both babies are now sleeping peacefully. I find myself hard pressed to tear my eyes away, but I do so in order to call my Dad. Im sure someone has already called him with the news, but I want to talk to him.
The phone rings two or three times before Amanda answers. I laugh before I can even say the words. "Hi, Grandma."
"Oh, Kelsey, you are an evil woman." She laughs back.
"Youre the one who married my father. You set yourself up for this."
"True. How are you?" Amandas voice is warm and friendly, a genuine concern evident.
"Im so very good. You should see them. They are perfect."
"We wanted to come down, but your father is tied up here."
This news does not surprise me in the least, but at least now I have a better understanding of it. "Is he home today?" It is after all Thanksgiving.
"Yeah, but, hes on a conference call to Paris. Hold on a second. Let me tell him youre on the phone."
"Okay." Normally, I wouldnt let her interrupt him, but its a holiday and I just spent more than twelve hours giving birth to his grandchildren. He can take time out to talk to me.
"Hey, sweetheart! Hows my girl?" He sounds very happy.
"Im good, Dad. Youre a grandfather."
"I know. I got a very short but excited call from your better half about six this morning. How are my grandchildren?"
"Perfect." I laugh at myself. I all ready sound like a typical parent. "Are you going to be able to come down at all? Harper and I probably wont come back to New York until after the first of the year."
"We thought wed come down next week. Thatll give me time to get this mess cleaned up and youll have time to get home and get settled."
"Sounds great. I cant wait for you to see them. Theyre absolutely beautiful, the both of them. Brennan has blonde hair and Collin has a pile of thick dark hair."
"Well, dont be surprised if that changes. When you were born your hair was red. Then it all fell out and came back in blonde."
"I dont care if it falls out and never comes back. I love them."
"Spoken like I true mother."
That word sends a chill down my spine.
"No, Im better than that. Im going to be a mom."
* * *
When I return with breakfast for Kels, I find Gerrard and Katherine in the room with her. Each are holding one of the twins and cooing at them. I put the tray on the small table next to Kels and pull it in front of her.
"Theyre beautiful, Harper," Katherine says over Brennans head.
"Thanks." I kiss their mother and then wander over to look at my kids. I run my fingertip across Collins cheek and he smacks his lips.
Gerrard smirks up at me. "Of course, youre lucky to see them, arent you, Harper Lee? I mean, the way Kels here tells it, you might still be at the Ritz giving your speech."
So thats how its gonna be, huh? "In all fairness, someone didnt tell me she was in labor. I had to be told through charades. At first, I thought it was some prank of Robies, but "
"Oh, admit it, Tabloid, you were so caught up in the moment we nearly needed flares to get your attention." She raises a playful eyebrow at me. "Its nice to be the center of attention, your children just decided to outclass you."
Gerrard begins laughing, little Collin bobbing on his chest as he does so. "Ooo la la, Harper. Youre in for it now."
"Dont feel too bad," Katherine chimes in. "Gerrard was almost as bad when T-Jean was born."
"Now, lets not start telling tales, Katie," Gerrard warns.
"Oh, lets," I urge.
Katherine kisses Brennans head and places her back in the bassinet. "Perhaps Ill share it with the Kitchen Conspiracy when Kels is able to rejoin us."
"Ooo, Im all for that." Kels has already devoured about half of her breakfast. She smiles over at me. For a moment, I mistake it for sweetness, but then she says, "Im sure I have some new Harper stories you havent heard yet."
Gerrard hands over Collin to me. "Maybe we better have another poker night soon."
I nod. "I believe we are past due."
Katherine goes over to Kels and gives her a gentle hug. "Congratulations, Kels. You make sure Harper takes good care of you."
"She has no choice. I know where she lives."
Gerrard laughs at me. "Welcome to parenthood, Harper Lee." He kisses Kels temple. "Good luck."
I shrug and take one of Kels hands in mine. "Im gonna need it, thats for sure."
* * *
Later in the afternoon, Mama and Papa sneak into our hospital room with enough food to feed a small army. Apparently, the traditional Thanksgiving feast has continued unabated, despite mine and Harpers absence. It doesnt bother me in the least. Next year well be there. And the twins will get their first taste of fried turkey.
Mama places a huge picnic basket down on the chair and comes over to the bassinets. She smiles down at Collin and Brennan, her eyes glistening with unshed tears. Harper is standing there, beaming. She looks like a kid who just won the most fantastic prize and wants to show it off to her parents. She reaches into a bassinet and picks up Brennan. Gently, she hands her over to Mama.
"This is your granddaughter, Brennan Grace Stanton Kingsley."
Mama places a kiss on her forehead and whispers a prayer in French. "Jonathan," she calls Papa over, and hands Brennan over to him. He takes her and begins rocking her gently.
"And this is your grandson, Collin Lee Stanton Kingsley." Harper now hands Collin over to his grandmother. Our sons hair never fails to amuse me. Where Brennans is so light, it looks like shes bald, Collin looks like a Chia pet. Mama is saying the same prayer over him, kissing his eyelids.
Mama looks over at me. "Thank you, Kelsey."
Three words that speak volumes to me.
Harper sits down on the bed beside me and wraps her arms around me. "Yes, thank you, Kelsey."
Papa carries Brennan over to the picnic basket and I notice, for the first time, the two presents wrapped and on top of it. He picks up the packages and brings them over to me. "A little something, from us."
Harper and I work together to unwrap the first present. Inside is an infant-sized Tulane football jersey with Kingsley written on the back. I guess I better get used to have a football player in the family. Or rather, Collin better get used to the idea. The second package is an infant-sized Tulane basketball jersey with Kingsley written on the back of it. Guess I now know what sport Brennan will be playing when she grows up.
"Theyre wonderful! Thanks, Papa! Mama!" Harper exclaims, beaming. She turns to me and I can read the question in her eyes easily.
"No, you have to wait until theyre home before putting them on. Theyre still too little." She pouts exactly like Collin does. I push her lower lip back in and then kiss her. "Soon, darlin. Theyll grow up soon enough."
* * *
Not long after Mama and Papa leave, Lucien and Rachel and Jean and Elaine stop by to meet the newest family members. They stayed for almost an hour, subjecting me to further teasing, but they were appropriately adoring toward Collin and Brennan.
Everyone is almost all settled down for a nap when the door to the room bursts open. I am on my feet instantly, ready to protect my family, when I realize I am about to attack a stuffed bear. An enormous stuffed bear. Held by our very happy nanny. "Its Uncle Brian!" he trills.
Brennan immediately begins crying, less scared than annoyed her sleep was disturbed. Or so I surmise from her expression. I pick her up and hold her close as Kels does the same for Collin. We both give Brian a perturbed glare.
"Say hello to your Uncle Brian," I whisper to Brennan, barely able to be heard about her cries. I kiss her downy hair and rock her in my arms. My little girl does not like having her sleep interrupted.
"Oops," Brian says, covering his mouth. "Did I wake them up?"
Kels shakes her head. "Its all right, Brian. But next time a less dramatic entrance might be nice."
"Look at that head of hair!" Brian walks over and takes a closer look at my son. He begins cracking up as he examines Collins thick head of hair which has a propensity to stick out in every direction despite the little cap. "Whats up with the yarmulke?"
"You are?" Brian buys my comment hook, line and sinker. "I didnt know that. Sunrise, sunset; sunrise, sunset; swiftly flow the days!" His singing voice leaves a bit to be desired. He holds out his hands and Kels hands Collin over, a bit reluctantly.
"Have you held children before?" I ask from across the room, now moving to be closer in case my boy needs me.
"Sure." Brian takes Collin and holds him up Kunte Kinte-style. Somehow weve moved from Jewish to African traditions. "Let the river run," he warbles.
"Brian," I interrupt, "thats from Working Girl. And get him down from there. Dont scare my son."
Brian immediately complies and hands Collin back to Kels. I relax. He looks over and gives me a winning smile. "Hi there, Stud. Theyre gorgeous. Must take after Kelsey."
I bite my lip. Its true. I certainly wont argue that point.
"How are you, Kels?" he asks gently. No matter what, Brian adores my girl.
"Im good, thanks. Much better now that theyre here." She kisses Collins forehead. Hes already asleep in her arms.
Brennan yawns in mine. I lay her back down in her bassinet. Kelsey told me I cant hold them while they sleep. I dont think its because she doesnt want to spoil them, but she doesnt want to spoil me.
I sit down on the chair between the two bassinets and gaze at my babies while Kels catches up with Brian. Theyre only one day old and already I am sad about them growing up and moving away.
Sunrise, sunset, indeed.
* * *
"Harper Lee?" I hang my head, listening to her re-buckle the seat belts for the fifth or sixth time.
"If you dont get in this car and take us home "
"Im checking the car seats."
I take a deep breath, trying to remember shes only being careful. Shes doing this because she loves them. Not because she is purposefully trying to drive me insane. "Harper, youve checked the car seats at least two dozen times." I turn and point to the babies. "Look at them. Theyre sound asleep. Perfectly happy. Very content. Your wife, on the other hand "
She looks up at me, easily reading my expression. "Gotcha. You want to go home?"
"In such a big way."
"Okay, okay, you dont have to hit me in the head with a brick."
No, but I better not try blocking her view of the babies. I sigh as she finally closes the car door and gets in behind the wheel. She then spends another minute or so making sure there are no bombs planted anywhere and that the rearview mirror is perfectly positioned.
"Do you love me at all?"
"Little Roo, you are the love of my life."
"Then for Gods sake, please, take us home now." Im not above begging at this point.
She turns over the engine and puts the car in drive. Finally! My Ma moved and drove faster than her even when she had rheumatoid arthritis. I shake my head and refrain from telling her its illegal to drive under the speed limit. At least, were moving. And were even headed in the right direction. For this kindness, I am grateful.
I lean back in the seat and close my eyes, willing the babies to sleep all the way home. God only knows what Harper would do if they started fussing right now.
"Tired?" Harper takes my hand.
I open my eyes and turn to face the happiest person on the planet. "Yeah. A little. Im looking forward to getting home."
"Whats the first thing youre going to do?"
"Well." I look into the back seat. My babies. Our babies. Our beautiful family has finally come together. "After making sure everyone is happy and settled, Im going to take a marathon hot shower. Then Im going to find my baggiest, most comfortable sweats, a big, thick pair of socks and have you build a fire in the fireplace. I will then make myself a nice hot cup of tea, settle down and appreciate the fact that I can see my feet." I look down at them again. It seems Ive been doing that a lot since the babies were born. I have beautiful toes, if I do say so myself.
* * *
This is total bliss.
My first shower at home. The water is hot and the pressure is perfect. I turn my back to it and simply allow it to massage my back and shoulders. Three days in the hospital with the babies was more than enough for me. Im very happy to be home with my family.
I smile. Harper is absolutely adorable. I simply dont exist in her world at the moment. Shes far too occupied with the babies. Even as I was getting ready to take my shower, she was stretched out on the bed, her head resting in her palm. Lying next to her were both twins, content and sound asleep. She merely wanted to watch them sleep.
I knew she was a lost cause when I announced I was headed for a shower and she didnt even bother to look at me. She waved her hand and mumbled something in my general direction, her eyes never leaving the babies.
I let the water run for a few minutes longer before I shut it off and step out. Im almost afraid to really look, but as the steam filters out of the bathroom I finally face the mirror.
Okay, I can work with this. Give a few days more to let the C-section incision heal and Ill start with a light exercise program. Im definitely better all ready. I slip into my robe and toss a towel over my head. I hear someone fussing as I towel my hair dry and head for the bedroom. Its not Harper.
"Whos being grumpy?"
"Your son," she tells me happily as she scoops him up.
"Ah, I get it now. I see how its gonna be. When theyre good, theyre ours, and when theyre bad, theyre mine."
"No, not at all, Little Roo," she assures me with a smile. "When theyre good, theyre mine. When theyre bad, theyre yours."
I tuck my towel in the neck of my robe and extend my hands. "Then give me my son."
"Un well " She certainly didnt expect that.
"Well?" I extend my hands again. "Come on, Tabloid. Give him up." My sons fussing becomes nearly a full blown fit before Harper finally concedes, realizing I have what he wants at the moment.
With a sigh, she makes room for me on the bed, and hands Collin to me so I can nurse. Somehow she manages to keep one hand on Brennan and allow me to lean against her on the other side while I cradle Collin.
We are home. We are getting settled.
I was wrong about the shower.
This is bliss.
* * *
I am sitting on the floor in the living room watching our children. They are five days old. Already they are the smartest, most beautiful children ever born. I know it. Kels knows it. Everyone who sees them knows it. Its just the way things are.
Our bright, beautiful children have three main activities: sleeping, eating and pooping. I am surprised at how non-fussy they are. When they cry, it makes sense. Theyre either tired, hungry or wet. How come other parents are unable to understand these basic signals?
Collin is currently asleep, chewing on his tiny fist. Brennan is drifting in and out of sleep. I watch her tiny eyelids flutter open every few moments. Both babies have blue eyes right now, but theres no way to know for certain if theyll stay that color. We know theyll be light, though.
Im trying to help Kelsey as much as possible. We have the twins in our bedroom, sleeping right beside our bed. When they need their nighttime feeding, I get up and take care of one of them. Kels fixes up bottles of breast milk so that I can participate in this aspect of their care. I am also a world class diaper changer. I can get them clean, powder their butts, and diaper them up in record time.
Today we gave both twins a bath. Oh, boy, was Collin unhappy with that turn of events. He was cold and scared and more than pleased when we dried him off and put him back in his sleeper. Brennan, on the other hand, sighed when we rubbed the little washcloth over her. Shes a hedonist. I can tell. I think a few too many of my genes ended up in her.
Kelsey is absolutely perfect with the twins. Her fears of being a bad mother are only that ungrounded fears. She makes fun of me for being captivated by these two little lives, but shes just as bad. Maybe worse. I woke up in the middle of the night to find her watching them and me. She tried to make some excuse but I had caught her fair and square.
The first time I watched her breastfeed our children, in the hospital, I felt this primitive possessiveness wash over me. Seeing her connected in such a fundamental way to Brennan, I was ready to fight and die defending them. If Kels thought I was over the top when she was pregnant, she aint seen nothing yet. Every noise, every strange event is heightened to me. These two children have no one to protect them in this world but us. I will die before I let them down.
My feelings for Kelsey have managed to grow stronger as well. I didnt think it was possible, but apparently it was. To know that she can create life in her is staggering to me. Last night I lay in bed beside her massaging her now flat stomach. It feels to good to have her tucked up close to me, to have her hold my hand and snuggle it between her breasts.
Otherwise, she wont let me near them. I tried joking about having a taste and that went over like a lead balloon. She doesnt know that I tried some from one of the bottles she filled. It was sweet, like condensed milk from a can. But I am not allowed near the source.
Ill live. As long as Brennan and Collin are allowed, then life is good. They are putting on weight, and filling out. Its interesting how clear the difference is between Brennan who was born the natural way and Collin who was given some help. She has only recently stopped looking smooshed. Ive been keeping a careful eye on Collin, since his dramatic start in life. Hes a little smaller than Brennan and feels more fragile to me. Of course, Brennans headstrong personality makes her not seem like an infant, but a very, small adult. A very, small determined adult.
Kels walks into the room and gives me an indulgent smile. "Having fun there, Tabloid?"
I smile and pat the floor beside me, beckoning her to join me. "Absolutely."
She drops down and leans against me. "We have an hour or so before they will want to be fed."
I glance at my watch. "Yup." I lean over and rub the bottom of Collins foot. He gurgles and moves his foot away from my annoyance.
Kelsey laughs. "You are such a lost case."
I frown. Hmm. I wonder whats up with that. I pull back and look at her. "How so?"
She turns and faces me, pushing back my hair, letting her fingers graze my cheekbone, then throat and neck. "Our children are asleep. For the moment, they are warm, well fed and dry." I glance over her shoulder and confirm each of those descriptions. She turns my chin to face her again. "Basically, Harper, Im propositioning you. And, yet, you only have eyes for those two."
"Propositioning me? Isnt it too soon?"
She smiles sweetly. "Well, yes. But I thought you wouldnt mind making out with me on the couch."
"Mind?" I have to laugh at that thought. I think not. "Let me put them in their bassinets."
Kels winks. "That was the plan, stud."
Their beds are never too far from wherever I have the twins. I pick them up carefully and transport them there. Kels drops their blankets on top of them along with a kiss. Id leave them on the floor if I wasnt worried that Kam might come barreling through whenever Brian brings him back from his walk.
Kam is so funny with the twins. When Kels breastfeeds them, he licks their feet. He is exceedingly gentle with them. He just wants a taste. He seems to understand that they are ours and he has appointed himself their guardian and protector as well.
Kelsey welcomes me into her arms on the couch. I lay down on it, and she flops on top of me. She sighs, her breath spilling over my shirt and skin. "God, I missed this."
"Laying on my stomach." She rubs herself against me.
"Actually, youre laying on mine." I start laughing. "That tickles." I squirm underneath her. It feels better than I realized to get to hold her this way. Its been too long. I wrap my arms around her, holding her tight against me. She burrows her head under my chin and we rest together for awhile. I inhale the kiwi scent of her shampoo. "Hey, I thought you wanted to make out."
She looks up at me, folding her hands on my collarbone and resting her chin there. "Well "
I lean forward and capture her lips. I dont like my girl having second thoughts about kissing me even if she is teasing. My hands slide up and down her body, reacquainting themselves with her normal physique.
She pulls back, breathing hard. "It takes you awhile, but you do come around."
I lift a quizzical brow. "Huh?"
"Harper, Harper, Harper," she chides me. "You are so funny lately. Those babies have you wrapped around their itty-bitty fingers."
Well, thats true. "Isnt that good?" Perhaps Im doing something wrong here.
"Of course, thats good. Its just its not very flattering to me."
I let that wash over me. "Im sorry, chér. Its only because Ive waited so long to see them and now I didnt mean to hurt you."
Kels smiles. "You didnt hurt me, sweetheart. I know you too well for that. And I am thrilled by your love for Brennan and Collin. I just want you to look at me the way you used to, thats all."
"I didnt think I stopped." I am totally confused now.
"You dont notice me when Im in the room right now."
I let a lazy smile spread across my lips. "Oh, chér, thats where youre wrong. I notice everything about you."
"Uh huh. Tell me another one."
"Nah, Id rather kiss you."
"Then shut up and jump, stud."
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