The woman that sat across the table from him was a total bombshell. He couldn’t recall her name. Carly, maybe? Her dark brown hair fell in soft curls past her shoulders that framed her face. Her skin was soft and creamy.
She looked at him through heavily mascaraed eyes. It was those pale green eyes that had done him in. The shiny pink gloss she’d painted her lips with accentuated how full they were. They left pale smudges on her wine glass.
As he watched her gingerly wrap those lips around a bite of steak and slowly remove the fork, he felt a tingling of excitement. He couldn’t wait to kiss those lips.
His right pocket began vibrating. He ignored it. Reaching across the table, he took her hand in his. He slid his calloused thumb back and forth over her knuckles. He prayed she wanted to skip dessert.
His phone vibrated again. Then, the one in his left pocket began to ring. He did his best to ignore them, but whoever it was was being persistent. The bombshell excused herself to go powder her nose, and he took the opportunity to check his messages.
The first one he listened to was the most recent one. It began with some heavy panting.
“Where the hell are you?” his wife, Cardie, shouted between pants. “I’m not having this baby without you!”
She was screaming as the voicemail ended. He shouted for the waiter as he listened to the voicemail on his other phone.
“My water’s broken,” his wife, Lyza, remained calm as she left her message. “I was in the city, so they’ve taken me to Memorial Hospital. I do hope you can get back to town in time.”
A string bean of a boy with short cropped hair and dark chocolate skin arrived beside the table. “Sir?” he stood slouching, a bored look on his face.
“I’ve had an emergency come up. I have to go.” He slipped a hundred into the boy’s hand. “The change is yours. Please apologize to my date for me.”
Outside, he handed his ticket to the valet. The young girl hardly looked old enough to drive. Absently, he watched her run into the parking lot to collect his car.
Had Lyza said Memorial? Cardie was waiting for him at Memorial. He felt a lump rise in his chest. It felt like an eternity before he saw his car coming from the parking lot. As he slipped a five to the young girl, his date came stumbling out of the restaurant.
“Charlie! I thought we were going back to my place,” she pouted.
“Look, Katie,” he began.
“Kelly,” she corrected.
“Whatever,” he blew her off. “I’m about to be a father. A husband should be there when his wife has a baby. I’ve gotta go.”
“You’re married?” she shouted.
“Yes. And right now, they’re both waiting for me because they had to both go into labor tonight.”
“Both?” this time she slapped him.
“I don’t have time for this,” he said dismissively as he turned to leave.
“You’re just going to leave me here?”
He turned and looked her head to toe. Then, shaking his head regretfully, “A looker like you? I’m sure you’ll have no problem finding a way home.”
He climbed into his car and popped it into drive. He rolled down the window. “Call me sometime.” Then, he drove away.
Less than twenty minutes later, he was at Memorial Hospital. He found a parking space as far from the entrance as he could manage. The walk would do him some good.
He walked slowly. He lacked the courage to face what was surely ahead of him. He didn’t deny that he was a coward. He must’ve started back for the car at least a half dozen times.
He lingered near the ambulance bay, where a couple EMTs were unloading a lively patient from the back of their ambulance. An older lady with wild hair and a firy expression on her face.
“Let me out of this bed!” she hollered, swinging on the EMT nearest to her.
He smiled in spite of himself as he watched the paramedics cooing at her as they attempted to lay her back down.
“It was just a little indigestion. My daughter never should have called you. I’LL SUE!!!”
Chuckling to himself, he finally made his way inside. There was a lot of hustle and bustle in the ER. He stood back and waited patiently. He was in no hurry to face the music. Behind the desk sat a mousy nurse wearing a tight ponytail, thick glasses, and a sour look.
“Can I help you?”
“Yes, umm,” he shuffled his feet. “My wife is having a baby.”
She stood and looked over the counter. “Did you leave her in the car?” she asked with concern.
“No,” he assured her. “I received a phone call. She’s already here.”
“Labor and delivery is on the third floor,” she sat back down. “Elevator’s over there.”
The elevators were easy to locate. He pushed the button for the third floor and rode up alone. He followed the signs through a maze of hallways until he found what he hoped was the correct nurse’s station.
“Excuse me?” he attempted to stop a nurse as she rushed past him, her arms loaded with supplies held tightly to her chest.
“Someone will be with you just as soon as they can. Got two mommas lookin’ to deliver,” her cat eye glasses had slipped to the tip of her tiny nose.
“I WANT MY HUSBAND!” Cardie’s shout came from down the hall.
“There’s one of them, now. Poor dear refuses to push until her husband arrives. You wouldn’t happen to be?”
“Mr. Anderson?” he offered.
“Oh thank heavens. Come, come. Hurry now.”
He followed her as she rushed down the hall. He breathed a sigh of relief. Lyza thought he was out of town. She wouldn’t question if he arrived too late.
“Chaz, darling, I’m so glad you made it,” Lyza beamed from the bed near the door.
“Oh. Mr. Andreson. I’m sorry. I thought you said Anderson,” the nurse had already pulled back the curtain slightly.
“Charles!” Cardie exclaimed between pants.
She reached for him as he stood frozen in the doorway staring at the spectacle in front of him. Three nurses and both his wives were all staring at him expectantly.
“Chaz, what are you doing?” worry furrowed Lyza’s brow.
“Sir, please close the door and take your wife’s side,” the nurse urged.
He closed the door, leaned his forehead against it, and burst into a fit of hysterical laughter. He was gasping for air, unable to stop laughing. The nurse placed a hand on his back.
“The birth of baby is an emotional thing. It’s quite normal to have such a strong reaction.”
Her assurances only succeeded in making him laugh even harder. He knew he had to turn around and face the music. He was relieved when he felt the mask slipped over his face.
He gulped down the oxygen as he took the mask from her. He turned around. Cardie looked angry. Lyza looked confused.
“There, there,” the nurse patted his arm.
“Before you get mad, let me explain,” he started to defend himself as soon as he could breathe on his own again.
“Perhaps you’d like to discuss this a little more privately behind the curtain. Which one’s your wife?”
“Well,” he drew it out. “Both of them are.”
“Don’t that just beat all?” the nurse set to work reorganizing the room so that he could be there for both of his babies’ arrivals.
“What did he just say?” Cardie asked.
“Sounded like he said he’s married to both of us,” Lyza provided.
“They’ll be like twins,” the nurse announced cheerfully.
“Charles! Get over here! You put this baby in me and you’re gonna help me get it out!”
“Coming, Cardie,” he rushed to her side.
“I’m right here,” he promised, taking Lyza’s hand with his free one.
The doctor arrived and greeted Cardie with a smile. “Let’s see how we’re doing Mrs. Anderson.”
After a quick examination, he assured them that everything was moving along swimmingly, and they’d be meeting baby before long.
“You’re turn Mrs. Andreson,” he announced as he stripped off his soiled gloves and donned a new pair. After her examination he assured, “looks like baby’s going to wait until Mrs. Anderson’s baby arrives. We’ll just keep you both right here so I can keep an eye on things.”
The doctor noticed Charles, then. He looked from his right hand to his left then from patient to patient. “And you are?”
“Oh God!” Cardie squeezed his hand so hard the fingers went numb. “This one’s a big one!”
“I want you to give me a push, now, Mrs. Anderson. Baby’s ready to be born.”
Cardie was a trooper. She worked hard and soon their son arrived. He had a fuzzy cap of black hair and a scrunched up purple face. He was perfect, with ten fingers and ten toes and a powerful set of lungs he used to protest the injustice of being ejected from his safe, warm home.
Before Charles had a chance to hold his newborn son, Lyza called out, “I think she’s coming, now.” The doctor hurried to check her. She grabbed her husband’s hand, “I need you, now, Chaz.”
Lyza’s delivery took much longer than Cardie’s. She pushed and screamed and cried. She was exhausted. She barely mustered the energy to give the final push that brought their daughter into the world.
She was larger than her brother. A bald little think with a pink complexion. Her face wasn’t round and pudgy like her brother’s. She had a long, narrow face like her mother’s. Her long fingers would be perfect for piano.
There he stood between his wives, each holding a newborn babe in her arms. Neither spoke to him. The atmosphere in the room was tense as the staff hurried to cleanup from the births and vacate as quickly as possible.
Charles looked from Cardie nuzzling their son’s cheek to Lyza kissing their daughter’s forehead and attempted to break the ice. “They’re going to need names.”
His wives pretended he wasn’t there. He stood squirming in the awkward silence.
“You know, their paternity really isn’t their fault,” Lyza broke the silence.
“True. And MY son is your daughter’s big brother, even if only by a few hours,” Cardie admitted.
“What are you going to call him?”
“That’s a lovely name. I think I’ll call her Rosie Marie.”
“That’s a beautiful name.”
They fell into a more comfortable silence as they doted on their babies. It did nothing to ease Charles’ anxiety.
“Can I hold him,” he finally asked.
Cardie reluctantly handed him his son. He snuggled the small infant, holding him close. No matter what else happened, it was worth it.
His skin was no longer purple. He had his mother’s deep complexion. He opened his eyes and peered up at Charles with a pair of chocolate eyes that mirrored his own. He had chubby little cheeks and pudgy little hands.
“Let me see him,” Lyza requested.
He held Thomas out for her to see before returning him to his mother’s arms. He then turned and collected Rosie into his arms. He showered her with the same affection he’d given his son.
She was a quiet thing who’d barely let out a single cry since she’d been born. She slept peacefully as he looked her over. He showed her off to Cardie before placing her back on Lyza’s chest.
A nurse, a new one Charles hadn’t seen before, poked her head into the room. “Visiting hours are over.”
“Oh. Ok. Thank you.”
He kissed his son before trying to kiss Cardie goodbye. She turned away from him.
“Alright, I’ll see you tomorrow,” he said, placing a hand on top of Thomas’ head.
He turned and kissed Rosie’s forehead. When he tried to kiss Lyza, she turned away from him, too. Dejected, he headed for the door.
“I love you,” he said as he pulled the door shut.
He hung his head and walked slowly to his car.
Love Sick: Stories is out now
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