I stir & he pulls me closer. He exhales, his breath warm on my shoulder. I open my eyes, the birthing suite coming into focus, & it all comes back to me- the fact that our babies were born yesterday, I almost died, & they're fighting for their lives.
I whimper, fighting back tears. Mark pulls me even closer, crushing me slightly, & kisses my cheek repeatedly.
“What's wrong?” He asks.
“I forgot what happened to us,” I reply, still crying. “And then it all came back to me.”
“Hey,” he says. “We’re going to get through this.”
“No matter what the outcome is,” he says, turning my head to look at him. “We’ve got each other.”
He leans down & kisses me. I sigh against his lips & turn around to face him. His mobile buzzes in his pocket, & he groans in annoyance as we part. He pulls it out & checks it.
“Huh,” he says.
“What?” I ask.
“It's a text from Sarge,” he replies. “He says he heard about our babies & he’s organised for my shifts for the rest of the week to be covered.”
“Awwww, that's so nice of him.”
“And he’ll make sure they pay me for them.”
I gape. “Seriously?!”
He nods. “See,” he replies, showing me the text.
I read it several times. “Wow.”
“I’m going to call him & thank him,” he says. “You’ll be okay for a few minutes?”
“Good,” he replies. He gives me a quick kiss. “I’ll be back.”
“You better!” I reply as he gets off my bed.
He looks back at me as he smirks. I watch as he walks over to the door, opens it & slips out. I roll onto my back. Hopefully we can see our babies much closer this time. Maybe we’ll get to hold them.
After breakfast, I go home to have a shower & get changed into casual clothes. I open Paige's suite’s door, finding her sitting up in bed. She's with Dr Brooke, but sees me as I shut the door. She smiles- no, grins- & claps excitedly.
“Someone's a lot brighter,” I say, crossing to them.
I give her a quick kiss.
“That's because Doctor Brooke just told me we can go see our babies!” She replies. “And not just stare through the window! We can actually go in & be next to them!”
“That's good!” I reply, smiling. “I told you last night we would.”
“Yes you did.”
“Unfortunately, you won't be able to hold them quite yet,” Dr Brooke says. “I know it's going to be hard, but their lungs are underdeveloped & they need assistance from our machines to breathe. Until they’re able to breathe more on their own, we won't be able to have them out of their cribs.”
Paige nods. “Getting to be next to them is enough,” she says. “It's a step closer, & that's all that matters right now.”
Dr Brooke nods. “Just come down to the room when you're ready,” she says. “You’ll have to get dressed into our protective clothing. We have some waiting for you there. Anything else you need, just ask the nurses there. And you can spend however long in there that you want.”
“Thank you,” I reply.
“You're welcome,” Dr Brooke replies with a smile. “I’ll drop in later to see how you're all going.”
“We’ll see you then,” Paige says. “Thank you so much for everything.”
“All part of my job,” She replies. “I'm glad they're making good progress, even in such a short time.”
I smile. “They're fighters like their mum.”
“Oi, & their dad,” Paige replies, hitting me lightly.
“Just because they're doing well, doesn't mean they’ll be able to leave any earlier than six weeks,” Dr Brooke says. “Maybe a few days early, but nothing more than that.”
“And how long can Paige stay?” I ask.
“I’ll have to double check our bookings, but I do believe we can have you here for almost the whole time your babies are in the NICU,” she replies. “I know you won't want to be too far from them.”
“I’d sleep next to them if I could,” Paige says.
“It's always hardest for parents of premmies,” Dr Brooke replies.
Paige nods. “I can't wait to be able to hold them.”
Dr Brooke nods. “And you will. In about five weeks. Their lungs will be developed enough for them to leave their incubator cribs.”
I place my hand on my daughter, being careful not to put too my pressure on her fragile body. The nurse had told us we could put our hands through the access holes if we wanted, as long as we followed the hygiene rules- which were to use the hand sanitiser upon arrival & departure, on top of the protective clothing. It's all to help support their immune systems, which aren't ready yet.
“She's going to grow up & be as feisty as you,” Mark softly says.
I look at him. He's standing by our son, his hands resting on the top of his crib, but he's watching me.
“And she’ll have you wrapped around her finger,” I reply, making him chuckle.
“While this one will be running round, causing trouble,” he says, looking at our son.
“Or he’ll be like you.”
“Whatever they’ll be,” he says, walking around to me. “We’ll love them.”
I nod. “I'm already crazy for them.”
“Me too,” he says. He wraps his arms around me & kisses my neck. “Just like I’m crazy for their mother.”
I smile, relaxing against him. “I'm crazy for you too.”
He kisses my cheek. “I told you you’d be a good mother.”
“You did,” I reply. “Neither of us expected it would start like this.”
“We’re all still here,” he says. “And we’ll all make it out.”
I nod. “I hope so.”
Two weeks later
“We should name them,” She says, as we sit with our babies.
“Yeah,” I reply.
“I’m sick of just saying ‘our daughter’ or ‘our son’,” She replies. “Sure it's accurate, but…” She sighs. “I feel like it will be nicer to name them. It's been a fortnight. And they're progressing really well. They deserve to be named.”
I nod. “I agree,” I reply. “Have any ideas?”
She thinks. “I’ve always liked the name James.”
I smirk. “And what about girl names?”
“How about you suggest something, before I feel like I have to name both of them.”
I raise my eyebrow & teasingly say, “Bossy, much?”
“You married me.”
“Mmmhmmm,” I lean in, stopping just before our lips meet. She inhales sharply, & I smirk. I give her a quick kiss, before leaning back. “What about Lilly?”
She frowns. “As in…?”
I nod. “What Lauren was going to call you,” I reply. “I thought it would be a nice gesture.”
She smiles, the one she gives me when I’ve just said something really sweet & her heart is melting.
“It's beautiful,” She says.
I wrap my arms around her waist. “I thought so.”
“Okay,” She says. “So we’ll call her Lilly.”
“And he’ll be either James or Scott…”
“How about James Scott Brennan?” I ask. “Or Scott James Brennan?”
“Oooohhh, that's hard!” She replies. “Which would you go for?”
I sigh, thinking it through as I rub her back. “Scott James Brennan sounds nicer.”
“Mmmm, yeah it does.”
“So we’ll call him Scott James Brennan?”
“Lilly should have a middle name too.”
I raise an eyebrow. “That was a quick response.”
She shrugs. “It just feels right.”
I smile. “Lilly… Emma… Brennan.”
She smiles. “I love it.”
“Me too,” I reply, rubbing her back. “I love both names for both of them.”
She smiles. “Me too.”
I lean down & kiss her. We look at our babies & she rests her head on my chest as I wrap my arms tightly around her.
“Hey,” She answers my call. “Where are you?”
“Hey. On my way back from Harold's.”
“Okay, I’m at the garage.”
Things had been tense for us ever since Mavi had shaken things up. We're still together, but our relationship had slowed completely down. Glacier melting slow. She’s been spending more nights at hers than sleeping at mine. That, I can take. But lately, she’s been avoiding being at the garage. So hearing her say she's there is a surprise.
“Yeah,” she says. She hesitates. “I thought I would drop by… Before I go home.”
I can sense her pursing her lips into a tight line. “Thought you could do with some… Stress relief.”
I stumble slightly at what she's suggesting. “Are you… Saying what I think you are?”
She hesitates & I can picture her seductive smile. “Yeah,” She softly says. “I know you like me in my school uniform.”
I swallow the lump in my throat, suddenly feeling hot.
“You better hurry up,” She says. “Because you're going to want to get here fast.”
“What if I don't?”
“I’ll have to relieve my urge,” she says very seductively. “All on my own.”
I swallow the lump again. “On my way.”
“Just over at Grease Monkeys,” She replies. “If you're not here in five minutes, I’m using my key to get inside. And you better be here by then. Or I’m forging on without you.”
“I'm almost there,” I reply. “I’ll be there in less than five.”
I know she's smirking. “Good boy,” she replies. “See you soon.”
“Very soon,” I reply, before hanging up.
I’m walking up the road before the garage’s road, keeping a brisk pace to get there as soon as I can. A car screeches round the corner ahead, narrowly avoiding sliding onto the wrong side of the road. As it approaches, I catch sight of a young female behind the wheel. Who looks a lot like Mavi. But they speed off before I can look properly. I turn around, watching the car speed off down the road & disappear round the corner.
“HEEEEEEEELLLLLLPPPPP!!!” A woman calls from around the corner towards the garage, making me snap back around.
Sensing her distress, I run down the rest of the road. As I turn the corner, I see a group of people standing in the middle of the road outside the garage. I race over, knowing someone has been hit.
I falter when I see who it is. I push away my worst fears, kneeling down & checking her pulse. She’s got a nasty gash to the right of her head, which is bleeding. Her right shoulder sitting out of place, definitely dislocated, & her right leg looks out of place too. But at least she's still breathing, & I sigh in relief.
“I’ll call an ambulance,” One of the bystanders says.
“Do you know her?” A woman asks me, & I instantly recognise she's the one who screamed for help.
I drag my eyes off her & look up at the woman, who is crouching on the other side of her. I nod, turning my attention back to her & I press my hand over her head wound to try & stop the bleeding.
“What's her name?”
It takes me all the strength I have to reply. Two words I never thought I’d say in this situation.