“Damn! Okay, thanks for calling me, Karen.” I hung up and called my pilot. “How long before you could file a flight plan and get me home?”
“We could leave within the hour, sir.”
“Okay, but the sooner the better, alright? I’m headed to the airport now. Get everything ready.”
I hung up with him and called Cassie. She was out of the beach, of course. “What is it, Alex? We don’t leave until tomorrow. Why are you bothering me?”
“I have to go home,” I told her.
“What? Now? Why?”
“Victoria is in labor.” I heard the hesitation. All along I had wondered if she’d figured it out… or heard the rumors.
“So why does that involve you?” she finally said. She sounded reluctant to ask, but it was a fair question. This wasn’t the way I’d wanted to do this, but it had to be done.
“Cassandra, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you this before.” I was already stepping into the back of the car that would take me to the airport. “The baby is mine. Victoria and I were together one time…”
“You bastard! You cheating slime!”
With a sigh I conceded in my head she had a right to be angry. Taking another deep breath I said, “I didn’t cheat. You and I were in the middle of divorce proceedings. I slept with her. She got pregnant. I wish I could tell you I was sorry, so that you would feel better… but I’m not.”
The airport was only ten minutes away. We were already driving up to the hangar when she said, “This is what that stupid nursery was about! You knew all along and you had ample opportunity to tell me you lying, cheating bastard!”
I stepped out of the car and said, “You have a right to be upset, Cassie. But I won’t stand for you calling me names. When you get home, we’ll talk about this and figure it out.”
“I’m not raising that maid’s brat!”
“You would never be expected to,” I told her. “Victoria will be raising her child and I will be there to help her as much as she needs.”
“You’re insane! You’re married! Do you know what the tabloids will do with this?”
“I don’t care. I’ve thought about this a lot, Cassie. You know as well as I do that you and I are not going to last forever. We may as well just cut our losses now. I want to try and make it work with Vicki and our child.”
“You’ll be very, very sorry Alex! You’ll rue the day you met that manipulative little tramp!”
With a low growl I didn’t even know I possessed I said, “You can call me what you like. Do not ever refer to my child as a “brat” again, or his mother as anything other than the beautiful lady she is.” Before she was able to spew any more ugliness, I hung up. Strangely, I felt better than I had in a very long time.
The ambulance delivered me to the emergency room and from there I was taken to the OB/GYN wing of the hospital. A lady with a clipboard came and checked me in and I did the best I could answering her questions between my labor pains. When I finished with her, an elastic strap with a fetal monitor on it was attached around my abdomen. The nurse started an IV in my hand and took my vital signs.
“Take deeper breaths, honey,” she said. I tried. It was hard to breathe when your insides felt like they were being ripped out. She took the oxygen sensor reading again and still not satisfied she turned on a small oxygen tank and put the tubes in my nose and said, “Just relax and breathe normally.” Sure, relax… right. I wonder if she’d ever experienced labor. I wasn’t even that far into it and I was sure that there was going to be no relaxing for me.
After she did all of that, she put on her gloves and said, “We’re going to see if you’re dilated.” My feet were put into the dreaded stirrups and she did her checking. It was almost as uncomfortable as the labor pains. When she was finished, she snapped off her glove and said, “You’re only at about two. We’ll see how you progress. We might have to have you walk for a while to speed things along.”
Walking sounded like torture at the moment. My belly seized up into another pain and this one traveled across my back. The nurse watched me and looked at the monitor. “They’re about five minutes apart. They’ll get closer as you progress and you’ll dilate more. Are you going to want the epidural?”
“No,” I told her. “I want to do this all natural.” She raised an eyebrow but she didn’t say anything. She fussed around me a little more.
“Okay, I’ll be back in about half an hour. Press the call button if you need me before that. Is there anyone waiting that you would like me to send in?”
“No, no one thanks.” I hadn’t called Liz. There was no reason for her to leave work and sit here worried. I would call her after.
“Maybe I could call someone for you? Dad?”
Dad is in Belize with his wife. “No thank you,” I said, simply. Her eyes looked sad, but I’m sure she’d seen it before. She left and suddenly I was alone. I had another terrible cramp and I realized that the little man was trying to tell me that I was wrong. I wasn’t alone and after today, I never would be again. After the cramp passed I rubbed my belly and said, “You and me, kid. We can do this. We’re going to be okay.”
The flight seemed to take forever. It was almost a five hours. I wondered if I would get there in time, or if the baby would already be here. I wondered how much danger the baby was in by being a month early. I kept thinking about her going through this all alone. I could hardly stand the thought of it. All I knew of having a baby was what I’d seen in the movies and on television, but it looked very painful. No one should be alone in that kind of pain. Vicki shouldn’t be alone… in pain or not. I was going to do whatever I had to do once I got there, to make sure it never happened again.
I took out my laptop and typed in: premature labor and delivery. I read through a lot of medical sites. None of them seemed to worry much about a baby that was born at thirty-five weeks. It seemed that everything major would be developed and working by that time, the major concern would be weight and developmental milestones. After that, I read through some of the testimonials of people who had children born premature. One woman who’d had her baby at thirty-five weeks noted that at that point the child wasn’t even considered premature, but “pre-term.” She said he was four years old now and keeping up with his peers in both his growth and his development.
Another mother said her son was only three pounds at birth. The doctors thought he would be small and sickly most of his life. He’s fifteen now, she said and over six foot tall. Reading all of that made me feel better. It also made me feel strange. I knew I was getting attached to the idea of having a son. I just hadn’t realized how attached.
I was thinking about things now in the future; when he learned how to walk and talk, when he started school, when he had his first girlfriend. I wanted to be there for all of it. I wanted to be someone that he could look up to and respect. I didn’t want to just be some rich guy who had a gaggle of lawyers at his disposal that told him what to do and how to do it. I also wanted to be with his mother. I wanted Vicki more than I had allowed myself to admit. I care for her so deeply that my chest physically aches when I think about it.
Cassandra can take the money. The tabloids can have a field day. My parents can give me their quizzical, disappointed look. I don’t care because I knew that this had actually worked out perfectly. I’d fallen for her by accident and it took everything that happened in between to make me realize that she was the one I’d been waiting for my entire life.
I realized as I was dilated to about eight and the contractions were about two minutes apart, the reason God had invented the maternal instinct… if not for that, I may have just given up and said, “Forget this, I’ve changed my mind.” But there was that instinct there that drove you on. You knew that you had to do this and make sure this baby came safely into the world. I wanted that more than anything at this po
int. I wanted him to be safe and healthy. While I lay there for the two minutes that seemed to only be two seconds, between pains, I tried to imagine what he would look like. I hoped that he had Alex’s eyes and maybe my blonde hair. He’d be gorgeous. I can’t imagine that he’ll be anything else anyways. I often wondered if parents of unattractive children would even know if they were unattractive. I doubted it and then I thought about my mother and her endless criticisms. I vowed that no matter what, I’d never be like that. I was going to do my best every day to tell him something good about himself. I wanted him to grow up knowing that anything was possible as long as he believed in himself. I was finally beginning to believe that about myself, but it had been a long time in coming.
“Victoria! How are you?” My doctor had arrived at last.
“Hi Dr. Patterson. I’m doing okay…” Another pain seized me. He watched the monitor as it did.
“I know you’re probably a little bit anxious because we’re a little early. But at this point, the chances are you’ll have a very healthy baby. He will likely be small… but if we have to, we’ll keep him here until he gains enough weight. His heartbeat is good and strong and you’re young and healthy, so all should go well.”
I nodded, another pain was starting; I tried to breathe through it, but it was getting harder. I could feel the sweat begin to bead up and roll down the side of my face. I was really glad I’d pulled my hair back this morning or it would be a sticky mess in my face.