"You can't get the police involved."
I held my arms out to my side. In any other circumstances, having two women pawing around my body would have been a dream come true. Unfortunately, the two women mother-henning me were Leighanne Littrell and Leigh Dorough and they weren't pawing me because I was sexy.
They were attaching some sort of torture device to my body.
"Well for one, we left the state of Kentucky where Bentley was dropped off. You've taken him over state lines. So you could be in trouble there," Leighanne explained.
"If the kid's mom's in Tennessee, whoever brought him to me is in trouble!" I argued.
"Yes, but if you get the police involved, they'll tell you to stop you traveling with him. They might even send him to a foster home," Leigh added.
The women exchanged worried looks. I sighed. Brian fell for Leighanne's watery eyes way more than I did, but then again I wasn't usually the cause of the tears. I needed Brian's help; ergo, I needed to keep his wife happy. Oh my god, did I just say that?
"So what am I going to do?" I asked.
Leigh headed down the hall. I could hear Brian talking to Bentley in my bedroom. Leighanne tugged on the kangaroo pouch thingy they had affixed to my chest.
"Rush a DNA test. If he's yours you can call the police and they can't say anything about you traveling with him because you have rights. And if he isn't..." she trailed off, her eyes focusing on the little dude Leigh was carrying towards me. She didn't finish her sentence, as if she was afraid she might traumatize him or something.
But let me tell you...I was kinda already traumatized.
"Here we go!" Leigh said. I think she was taking secret delight in this 'dress Nick up as a daddy' thing. She held open the pouch.
"All you have to do is put this leg here and this leg there and then you kinda wiggle him on in and---voila!"
Bentley grunted against my chest. The plastic pacifier he was sucking on was making dents right below my nipples as he sucked in and out. My face contorted in pain.
"This isn't comfortable," I complained.
"Once you get used to it, it is!" Leighanne said. She smiled and pressed her face uncomfortably close to my armpit. "Brian loved carrying Bay around in his wittle ittle kangaroo pouch. Do you wike your pouch Benters? Benny, Wenny, cutie pants?"
"I don't think there's anything cute that comes out of his pants," I said. I had done two more diaper changes. Sure, I hadn't gotten pee in my mouth, but I know I fried a few nose hairs along the way.
Leighanne didn't respond except to dive her face into the fabric-ky folds and give Bentley a kiss. She stood up and leaned in close to my ear. I had never had this much Leighanne contact in my life. It was unnerving.
"Since we're in Orlando today and it's your home state, I'll try to see if I can get a center to send someone out to the busses between soundcheck and the concert. You can keep it strictly confidential that way."
"Question," I said outta the corner of my mouth, matching her 'Mission Impossible' attitude. "How is he strapped to my chest keeping it confidential?"
"This is as subtle as a freight train taking a detour through a Dunkin' Donuts!" As if to prove my point, Bentley spit out the pacifier. Snagging a strand of chest hair, he freaked out. He gagged.
"Oh no," I groaned.
"AHHHHHHHHHHHHH HHHHHHHHHHHHHH HH!!!!!!!"
"Who is this person again?" Nick asked for about the twelve millionth time.
"Her name is Dr. Bailey, she's a paternity specialist," I explained.
Nick stared at me. "Why do you know a paternity specialist?" he demanded.
"She's helped me out before."
Nick's eyes widened. "Brian, have you had a --"
"No," I answered firmly. "I am not a baby daddy." I took a deep breath. "Leighanne and I... we've... had some... some trouble with the... the whole... baby... making... thing." His face was concerned. I shook my head, "Whatever. Look, I just know Dr. Bailey, and she was able to squeeze you in as a favor to me, okay?"
"So she helped y'all make Baylee?" Nick asked.
I stared at Nick for a long moment. "No. Baylee came naturally."
"I was gonna say, 'cos you said Baylee was, like, from that time y'all did it on the eleva--"
"Nick," I snapped. He shut up. I glared at him.
Bentley cooed against Nick's chest. He looked down. Bentley looked up. Bentley's eyes glistened happily as he stared up at Nick. Nick's eyes did not glisten back. He looked back up at me. "So, like, what do they do anyways?" he asked, "Like Xrays and shit?"
"Basically it's a Qtip you rub around in your mouth," I answered.
Nick raised an eyebrow. "That's it? They can tell from a spitty Qtip if I made the deposit that acrrued the interest?"
"How many euphemisms do you know?"
Nick grinned. "A lot."
We walked through the front doors of the DNA Testing Center. I felt my stomach turn. It smelled the same as it always had, with the pristine white walls and marble blue and grey floor. Large green plants blocked off waiting areas and a round receptionist's desk was across a vastly open foyer. I led the way, my stomach doing somersaults. Last time I'd been here had been when....
I'm not gonna think about it.
"We're here to see Dr. Bailey," I said when we got to the desk. The receptionist, a perky thing that had been there for years whose name always slipped me, grinned when she looked up and saw me.
"Mr. Littrell," she said. She stood up and reached over the desk to hug me. I forced a smile and pet her back. "Oh my gosh, it's so good to see you again. Where's Leighanne?" she ducked to one side and spotted Nick standing behind me, Bentley's legs dangling from the kangaroo pouch on his chest. Her eyes widened. She looked at me. "Is that --"
"No," I said, "Bentley here is -- well, that's why we're here to see Dr. Bailey," I said.
She nodded and picked up a phone, "You can head up to her office, I'll let her know you're here."
"Thanks," I muttered. I turned to Nick, "C'mon."
We started up the stairs toward Bailey's office. Nick grabbed my arm and stopped me for a second when we were in the hallway. He looked into my face, concern plastered across his. "Bri?" he asked.
"Obviously I- I missed something somewhere," he stammered, "I - I - At some point, at some point during all my - the drinking and the drugs - I -" Nick bit his lip. He stared at me. "Brian, I obviously missed something big."
I could still hear the outgoing message on his voicemail the night it happened. I'd wanted to talk to him so bad but he'd been out pounding shots with his glommer buddies in LA and didn't answer his phone. I'd ended up dealing with it all alone.
"It doesn't matter," I said.
"It does matter," Nick answered, "It does, I can tell it does. Your eyes say it does."
"We... lost... a baby," I whispered. "We'd been trying for two years and we came here and got some help, some fertility help from Dr. Bailey, and--" I took a deep breath. "When she got pregnant, we were so excited..." I licked my lips. "It was gonna be a girl, we had a name. Sarah."
Nick looked like he'd been punched in the stomach. He looked away.
"It's stupid the way they say it," I said, a coarse, not-from-humor laugh erupting from my gut. "Lost a baby... Like she was misplaced, like if we'd been vigilant we would've been able to keep it from happening, like we didn't care enough."
"C'mon Nick," I swiped my fist across my eyes to stop the tears. "You're gonna be late for the appointment."