“Push, princess,” Chance whispered in Katie’s ear as he held and supported her in the waist-high water of the Jacuzzi in their backyard.
She squeezed his hand extra hard as she looked over her shoulder and growled at him, “You fucking push, asshole.”
Chase brushed the blond hair back from her face with a cool washcloth, “Come on, Katy-did. You can do this. I know you can.”
Katie scrunched up her face as another contraction hit her. She had no choice but to do what they commanded. Her body demanded it, more than even they could, as she screamed and bore down with all her might.
“That’s right, Kaitlin. Perfect. I can see the head crowning now. Just a bit more.” They had roped Melody, her mother’s hospice nurse, into being their midwife for this unorthodox home delivery. The young woman smiled her encouragement as she moved into position, “Just a couple more pushes, and he’ll be here.”
Katie nodded as she took a deep breath and pushed once more. She bit her lower lip until it began bleeding, and almost felt an audible pop as the baby slipped from her body to swim in the pink-tinged water just between her thighs.
But it was not Melody who slowly lifted the tiny kicking and squirming bundle and brought it out of the water gently. Chance’s deep laughter rang around the fenced-in yard, “I think we need to discuss those names, folks. It’s a little girl,” he smiled.
Katie could barely focus on his words as another powerful contraction wracked through her body. Her eyes sought out Melody’s as she began to push once more, “I thought the hard part was over?”
She knew something was seriously wrong when she saw how pale Melody’s face got as she looked down into the water.
The young nurse turned to Chance, “I need you to clear her airway, then tie off her cord, and cut it. Keep her partially submerged in the warm water. Can you do that?”
Chance nodded, “I might be rusty, but yeah, we all took medic courses.”
Then Melody turned back to face Katie and Chase, “Listen to me carefully. I need you to push like your life depended on it.” She closed her eyes, and Katie trembled in Chase’s arms as she saw a single tear slip from the corner of the woman’s eye.
She shook her head, “No, Kaitlin, like your baby’s life depends on it.”
Katie nodded her head as tears began to flow down her cheeks, but she pushed, and the water turned a deeper pink with tinges of red streaks of blood.
Melody nodded her head as she lifted the afterbirth from the water and placed it in a bowl on the table next to the Jacuzzi. “Good, now we get to the serious work. Push…I mean, push like everything.”
Kaitlin bore down and watched as two feet, and then legs appeared in the water. She smiled as she saw the body of her son follow suit. She pushed harder, believing that the end was in sight, but nothing happened.
“Fuck,” came the uncharacteristic response from their friend and midwife. Melody reached into the water and tugged at the baby’s body. Still nothing.
When she looked up at them, panic welled up inside Katie. She shook her head, “No,” she pleaded.
“Listen to me. He is a bigger boy than his sister, and his little head has gotten stuck behind your pubic bone. I am going to need to put my fingers inside you, try to get them into his little mouth, and tilt his head down so that it can fit better.”
“I’m not going to lie. This is going to hurt. But it is our best chance here. If we were in the hospital, there might be a chance of getting you into surgery quickly enough, but we aren’t,” she shook her head.
“I need you to relax and just blow your breath out slowly. Chase, count with her. One. Two,” she began.
“Three,” Chase took up the count as he squeezed her hand tightly, forcing as reassuring a smile as he could onto his face.
“Four,” Chance joined the symphony as he held their baby girl to his chest and firmly massaged her back in an upwards motion as she whimpered and cried.
It was as reassuring a sound as Kaitlin could imagine then. “Bring her here, please,” she pleaded through the tears.
Chance looked towards Melody, who looked up just long enough to nod her head. Katie blew out another long breath as she felt the intense pressure of Melody’s fingers as well as their son’s body.
Chase chuckled into her ear, “Not as much fun, princess, as the DP that got us into this mess?”
Katie smiled up at him as she chuckled. Over the past year, Chase was once more returning to the jokester he had been in high school. Especially in those moments when the choice was to laugh …or cry.
So, between Chase’s joke and the soft mewing crying of their newborn baby girl, she managed to make it through the long uncomfortable moments until Melody looked up at them with a smile, “Now push – really push, Kaitlin.”
Katie bore down then with all the energy that she had been putting into denying her body’s need to do just that. It only took one contraction, and the bluish-grey limp body of their son slipped into warm water.
Melody worked quickly, unwrapping the cord that tightly encircled his neck. But still, she kept his body submerged, rubbing his back and thumping his feet until he stretched and began to wiggle in the water. Only then did she smile weakly.
“I’m going to give him a couple of minutes to get used to this new world. As long as the umbilical cord is still pulsating, he will be fine. Once he begins to move a bit more, gets some color back in him, then we will cut the cord and let him join his baby sister in the real world. Okay, folks?” she explained.
It was the longest few moments, but all of them smiled and sighed in relief when Melody finally put her fingers into the little guy’s mouth and began to clear his airway as she lifted him from the water.
Unlike his big baby sister, their son had a set of lungs on him, and he wanted to announce his presence to the world. Or perhaps protest at the rough ride getting him there. They were all laughing and crying as he wiggled and kicked at the air when Melody placed him on Kaitlin’s bare chest.
Melody cursed again, “Damn it, we don’t have a second set of clips for the cord or scissors either.”
Their friend Deke, who had been silently filming the whole thing on and off for hours, spoke up, “Clean rope? Twist ties? Any of that work?”
Melody fidgeted a bit as she nodded without making eye contact with the man. “Rope if it is not too thick,” she replied.
“How did this happen?” Chance asked as he gently laid their little girl next to her brother on Katie’s chest.
Melody shook her head, “I don’t know. Of course, you only wanted the one ultrasound, so all I can think is that she was hiding behind her big brother, and the sonographer did not notice.”
Deke appeared again with a length of soft, thin rope, which she used to tie off the cord at both ends. She picked the scissors from the table, but this time handed them to Chase. “Think it is your turn this time.”
He nodded and leaned forward as he smiled and cut the cord that had finally stopped pulsating. “So, what do we name them?”
Katie laughed, “There is only one real option…Artemis and Apollo.”
Chance bent and kissed her, “Damn, you are determined to make their little lives hell on the playground, aren’t you, Katy-did?”
“Artemis Joy and Skylar Apollo should work,” she smiled as she began to adjust the babies so that they could breastfeed.
“Skylar?” asked Chase. “Why not stick with Daniel?”
“Protector…and shelter. That’s what Skylar means. I figure he has earned that name for taking care of his little sister,” she replied as she grimaced when the squalling baby boy latched on for the first time.
“Oh,” Katie frowned as a smaller but still pronounced contraction hit her.
Melody nodded, “Last bad one, Kaitlin,” she promised as she turned her attention to delivering the second afterbirth and inspecting both the placentas as the family bonded.
Chance smiled as he and Chase began the age-old ritual of new fathers around the world in all cultures: counting toes and fingers.
Melody finished up as quickly as she could and helped the guys to get Kaitlin and the babies settled into bed. She had been surprised to discover that despite the traumatic birth, Kaitlin had not torn.
Then again, that was the least of the miracles that she had witnessed this night. As always, she had sensed something was terribly wrong as the small baby girl slipped from her friend’s body.
But when she had looked down and seen that tiny grey foot protruding past the placenta that had nourished his sister for nine months, Melody had known she was in way over her head.
It had been almost seven years since her rotation in the maternity ward. No, she was much more accustomed at this point to ushering souls into what lay beyond this world than welcoming them into it. At that moment, she feared that was what she would be doing once more.
Then she had felt the calm descend over her, almost heard the soothing voice. She recognized it immediately and knew that this little boy had a very special guardian angel. It shocked even her how quickly those forgotten lessons on footling breech births had come back to her. From that point, it indeed had been all textbook.
For once, Melody had not been the ‘Angel of Death’ as her colleagues at the hospital called her. Twenty-seven years old and her nickname was prophetically accurate.
Perhaps that was why she had gravitated to hospice care, for the little girl that could always see the dark cloud of death hanging over people, even strangers on the street, hospice nurse had seemed the natural career choice.
She sighed and smiled through the exhaustion as she made final checks on mother and babies. She was very relieved to see no sign of that familiar darkness around any of them. Even Sky, as they were calling him, seemed to have fully recovered from his frightening entrance into the world. She left a few final instructions with Chance as Chase watched over their partner and the babies.
It had been almost twenty hours since she had even napped during a brief lull in Kaitlin’s labor. But as tired as she was, Melody knew that sleep would elude her as it so often did. She would like to blame the long labor, the complicated birth, anything but the real cause of her unease…him.
Their friend Deke. She had not seen the man in months – not since the barbeque to announce the foundation’s new project. The Danvers Foundation would begin training cancer nurses in augmentative therapies such as acupuncture, aromatherapy, and cranial osteopathy. Alternative medicine, which might, as they had with Joy, relieve some of the worst symptoms of chemo and radiation therapies.
But as from that first encounter, on the boat, when they had taken Joy’s ashes to be scattered off the coast of Seal Beach, the man always made Melody uncomfortable. Or perhaps it was the dark cloud that she saw over him. It was not as pronounced this time, which seemed odd to her. Usually, these things only grew. But still, it was there, like a demon sitting on his broad shoulders.
She was not going to let thoughts of the man haunt her tonight. She decided as she stepped onto the tiny porch and looked down the street towards the ocean. A nice long walk on the beach was what she needed to relax her — followed by a couple of glasses of wine and a nice hot shower to relax her tired muscles. Or maybe a cold one considering the effect that man had on her.
“You were pretty amazing back there,” the baritone voice caressed her ear from behind.
Melody shivered, and it had nothing to do with the cool breeze off the ocean. Or even that cloud of death on this man’s shoulder.
It had everything to do with him…and what he did to her virgin body.
It had been a long couple of days. Who was she kidding? For Melody Rodriguez, it had been a long life.
Even brief moments of joy like this could not compensate for all the sadness and death she had known. Until she’d met Joy Danvers, Melody had herself often toyed with the idea of suicide. What was the point of life when all you saw around you was death?
But the woman had taught her – nothing done in love is ever wrong. So, she had brought that love to her job and found renewed strength to help others transition. If that were her sole purpose on this earth, then she would do. Do it with joy and in love as that amazing woman had shown her.
And this night, at least, she had been blessed to bring more of that special love into this world, in the forms of her mentor’s grandchildren.
She did not know what the future held for those two tiny souls, but she knew that they were among the few blessed ones born to parents who loved and wanted them, who would protect and guide them. Yes, nothing done in love can ever be wrong.
“I was just going for a walk on the beach. Would you care to join me?” Melody found herself asking the man who both frightened and entranced her.
He nodded and smiled as that cloud shrunk just a bit more. “I’d like that. I don’t think those three want me sticking around to video whatever happens next,” he chuckled. “Although knowing Chance and Chase, it might be damned interesting.”
Kaitlin was exhausted, but her body thrummed with energy as she watched her son drift off to sleep at her breast. His sister had been asleep for several minutes already. Chase had looked almost frightened as he lifted the tiny scrap that was their daughter into the Moses basket next to their bed. They had agreed that the babies would share their room as she had her mother’s…at least until they were a bit older.
She looked up just as Chance walked into the bedroom, still wet from the shower and in all his naked glory. You would think after living for over a year practically as men and wife, she would be used to seeing her stud puppies prancing around in their full glory, but she was not sure she ever would be. Most days, it all seemed like a dream.
Though she still missed her mother and probably always would, her work with the foundation allowed her to keep a special connection with the woman that had given birth and raised her — the woman who had been her best friend. Well, one of them as she watched the other two coo and awe over the tiny beings that were now their sacred trust to love and nurture.
Chance sat on the side of the bed next to her. “Hand him to me, and I’ll put him to bed with his sister,” he smiled as she carefully inserted her pinkie finger into the corner of their son’s mouth to break his death grip latch on her breast.
“Hey, little man, we get you. Your dad and I agree – thems some pretty nice tits, but would you mind being a tad more careful with them. We are just loaning them to you. They are ours when you are done with them.”
Chase chuckled from the other side of the bed. He rolled onto his side and softly squeezed the nipple that their son had been nursing upon. A clear yellowish liquid appeared at the end; he brought it to his lips and licked. “Screw what your other dad says, little man, this is share and share alike in this family.”
Katie slapped at his hand as Chance settled the sleeping baby into the basket next to his sister. “You two better be good. You’re dads now. That comes with lots of responsibility,” she sighed, as the melancholy that sometimes still plagued her took hold.
Her mother should be here. Should be there to give her all the wisdom of her experience and the ages. But she was not. It was just another of the many things that she would never get to share with her Mom.
Chance opened the drawer on the nightstand next to their bed and pulled out the cell phone. He had upgraded months ago. So Katie knew instantly what was to come as she smiled and took it from his hand.
Her mother’s face greeted her once more through the tears that they kissed away as fast as they appeared. She lay back nestled between them as Joy began to speak.
“Hello, baby girl. I don’t have to tell you how much I wish I were there with you right now. Then again, I want to believe that somehow or the other, I will be. Be there for you. For those two.”
Her mother laughed though it was weak, “Oh, I truly hope I am right and that I can be there to see those two changing their first diapers. It seems only fair mind you. You fill them up, and their dads clean it up on the other end.”
“Thanks, Joy, we love you too,” said Chase with a smile.
“I don’t know I’m up for getting one of those man boob things like in that movie. I’ll take my turn, feeding them,” smiled Chance.
Katie could not stifle the laughter at the image of brawny Chance with a silicone boob strapped to his stunning pecs.
Joy’s voice came from the phone once more, “Just remember, Kaitlin, being a parent is the hardest easy job in this world.”
“All you have to do is love them. Love them unconditionally as the goddess loves us. As she teaches us to love another. How is that coming with those two hunks, by the way? Can’t be going too badly if you are watching this video,” her mother chuckled.
“And my sweet girl, nothing done in love can ever be wrong. Teach that to this baby and any others you have. Oh, and if you have not already seen it, there is one more video I left you. Just ask the boys, and they will tell you how to earn that one too. I am so proud of you…of all of you.”
“Give that baby a big kiss from grandma. Tell him…or her…that I am watching over them. I always will be, my love,” Katie saw the tears sliding down her mother’s face as she raised her hand and covered the screen.
“You know these videos were a real labor of love for your Mom. She was so damned weak then. But still, she insisted on making them so you would have something special from her on big occasions like this. She really loved you, Katy-did,” Chance said as he took the phone from her fingers and placed it back on the nightstand.
“She isn’t the only one though, princess. I know we may not say it often enough, but we love you so fucking much,” Chase said as he drew her tighter and pressed a kiss to her forehead.
“Watch your language around the children, Chase,” Katie chastised him half-heartedly.
Her boys laughed as Chance turned off the lamp, and they settled into the comfortably uncomfortable cocoon that they had adopted as the only viable option for three people to share her tiny double bed. Though the guys often complained about the tight squeeze, neither made any move to purchase a larger one.
“So, what did Mom mean when she said to ask you about how I earned the other video?”
Chance kissed her slowly and deeply before turning her for his brother to capture her lips. His hands settled on her hips and drew her closer to his hard erection. Even though they knew it would be weeks before they could resume their unusual love life, there was something intensely intimate and comforting just about being pressed closely against them.
“You sure you ready for that one, Katy-did?” he teased.
“I just gave birth to not one, but two babies. Without a single fucking drug, I might add. How hard can it be after that?”
Chase bit her ear and whispered, “Watch your language around the children, princess,” as he playfully swatted her bottom.
“I guess you are right, Katy-did. After what you went through today,” Chance whispered against her lips.
“Marrying us should be a piece of cake, princess,” Chase purred into her ear. “Wedding cake that is.”
Katie was not sure how serious they were, her two somber jokesters. But she was not to be deterred. “I’m game if you are. But wherever are we going to find your wedding cake with a bride…and two grooms on top,” she kidded.
Chance chuckled, “We’ll figure something out, Katy-did. After all…nothing done in love is ever wrong.”