DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT READ QUEEN OF HARTE’S (well, you can if you like but you know what I mean)
Samantha placed her hand on Julian’s shoulder and he jumped.
‘Sorry,’ she said, blushing. ‘Didn’t mean to startle you.’
Julian smiled and shook his head. ‘It’s okay. I’m just…erm…just…’
‘Just nervous, anxious, not entirely sure what to do with yourself?’ Samantha said, half laughing but fully serious.
‘Just not in control,’ Julian admitted. ‘I hate this. I feel so helpless. Eva is in so much pain and there is nothing I can do.’
Julian rubbed his temples with his fingertips and sighed deeply. He roughly forced the sleeve of his shirt up his arm and glanced at his watch. Eva was in labour more than eight hours. Eight goddam hours. And the doctor said she had barely passed the half way point. This was torture. He’d swap places with his wife in a heartbeat if he could.
‘She’ll be fine, Julian,’ his mother in law reassured. I was seventeen hours in labour with Eva. It’s natural. You’re allowed to take a restroom break, you know. The baby won’t pop out because you needed to pee. Don’t worry.’
But Julian was worrying. He was worrying more than he ever had in his life. What if something happened his wife? What if their baby wasn’t okay? What if despite thinking the doctor was a thundering gobshite because he couldn’t click his fingers and deliver the baby straight away, the man was actually perfectly competent and good at his job, and Julian really did just have to wait? What if Julian didn’t get back to the delivery room before Eva noticed he was gone?
Julian took one, large, roasting hot gulp of coffee from the foam takeaway cup Samantha passed him and flung the rest into a nearby bin.
‘I need to get back,’ he said turning around to face towards the delivery ward at the end of the long corridor.
‘Julian. Breathe,’ Samantha warned. ‘You’re no good to Eva if you’re in a state.’
Julian’s eyes narrowed and without meaning to he eyed his mother in law up and down. But his gaze quickly drifted to the ground. Samantha was right. Julian hadn’t felt this helpless since he was a child. He needed to pull himself together. This wasn’t him. But this was all new and even though he wouldn’t admit it, not even to himself, it was scary. He never imagined there would be a pain he couldn’t protect Eva from. But yet, here they were.
Julian smiled at Samantha one last time, and without another word, raced back down the corridor.
Eva opened one eye at a time. She didn’t know how long she’d slept. It didn’t feel like very long. Her whole body hurt as if she’d gone ten rounds with a UFC champion and her throat was as dry as hell. But instead of reaching for the bottle of sparkling water on the table next to her bed she lay so still she was almost not breathing. She was taking in the most beautiful sight she had ever seen in her life, and even if it meant her throat would close over from thirst she wasn’t going to spoil it.
It was late. Definitely night outside. Moonlight shone through the fine material of the curtains closed across the window of her private, hospital room. It was just enough light to make out the silhouette of her husband sitting in the armchair in the corner, near her bed. He wasn’t sleeping, Eva knew. She could hear him humming a song. His deep tone and soft notes were spellbinding. But no where near as magical as the fragil human curled up in a tiny ball against his chest. Their daughter’s body was only a fraction bigger than Julian’s hand resting across her back keeping her warm and secure.
Suddenly Eva’s body couldn’t feel the aches and pains of recent childbirth and all she could feel was a tingle. It started in her toes, rushed up her legs and shot straight through her body until it reached her fingertips. She was no longer the most important girl in Julian’s life. It felt more bloody amazing than she ever could have imagined to hand that crown over to her new born daughter.
Eva watched Julian for a long time. He had changed so much since she first met him. For one thing, he smiled. Often. But right now she didn’t need to see him smile to know he was happy. She didn’t need to feel his naked body trashing against hers as they made love to know he was content. She didn’t even need to see him at all. She could feel it. His emotion was so strong as he cradled his little girl, that Eva could sense Julian’s happiness like she never had before. It had never been like this before. They had never been so complete.
‘You know, she’s going to get used to sleeping there,’ Eva said, finally giving in and reaching for some water.
Julian stood up as he heard her voice. ‘You’re awake.’
‘Have been for a while.’
Julian walked towards her bed, taking great care not to disturb the baby sleeping soundly against his chest. ‘Eva she’s amazing. So amazing.’
‘I just can’t take my eyes off her,’ Julian said.
‘I know that too. But you’re spoiling her, you know.’
‘I do know. And I plan to keep it up. I want to spoil her rotten.’
‘You’ll be sorry when she’s in the terrible two’s,’ Eva giggled.
‘I’ll never be sorry. I don’t think I’ll ever let her out of my arms.’
Eva tried to shoot Julian a scolding look but she couldn’t wipe the silly, overly happy grin off her face. ‘Well do you think you could put her down long enough to wrap your arms around your wife?’
Julian looked at Eva, then at their baby and back at Eva. ‘Okay. Now that I think I can do.’
Julian reached over the cot at the edge of Eva’s bed and placed the baby safely on her back. He was just about to cover her tiny body with a blanket when a loud cry, far too loud to come from such a tiny body filled the air. And other, and other. Without hesitation Julian scooped his arms under his baby and lifted her once again. She stopped crying immediately.
‘Oh. My. God,’ Eva laughed. ‘I think she’s the first person ever to boss you around.’
Julian laughed. Eva pulled herself into a sitting position, slid over a little on the bed and reached out her arms. Julian passed their precious little one into the crook of his wife’s arm and sat on the edge of the bed. He draped one arm over Eva’s shoulders and with the other hand he placed a finger against his daughter’s palm. Her little fingers instinctively grasp his finger.
‘You blow my mind, Miss Andrews. I’m so proud of you.’ Julian kissed Eva’s forehead gently.
‘Ah-herm, it’s Mrs Harte – thank you very much. And I’m pretty sure that’s not all I’ve blown for you, Julian.’
‘Eva. Jesus. Not in front of the baby,’ Julian laughed.
‘Oh. I see. You’re a family man now. We have to keep this PG 13.’
Julian looked at the baby in Eva’s arms, checking she was asleep. ‘Too right I am. I have two women in my life. One I will damn sure no man ever touches.’
Eva rolled her eyes playfully. ‘And the other?’
‘The other I will make damn sure this man never stops touching.’
‘Ju-li-an,’ Eva blushed.
‘Now. I just need to get you home so I can kiss every inch of you all better.’
The End… (for now 😉 )