July 3, 1998
“Thanks for calling me.”
“I thought you should be here.”
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
Brian smiles at me. He nods towards the door and rocks back on his heels. He’s nervous. I’m nervous.
Hell, the babies even feel nervous.
“I’ve read all about this guy. People say he’s the best doctor in the state for prenatal care.”
“He’s also never called the cops on a client before.”
“Yeah,” Brian rubs his neck. “Not my shining moment. I have a criminal record now. My mom was so pissed, but once she heard about the babies...” he laughs. “She was mad and sad for a totally different reason. It’s really weird to say that, y’know? Babies, not pissed. I sound like an idiot, don't I? I mean, I’m only 23 and I’m going to be a dad. It’s…it’s scary.”
“It’s even scarier at 19,” I say softly.
“I’m really sorry. Trust me, I don’t go around getting girls pregnant. Leighanne had just broken up with me because I was going to delay my surgery again and it was my birthday and--”
“It’s just as much my fault,” I interrupt. “Is Leighanne speaking to you?”
Brian shrugs. “Not really. Not that I blame her.” He checks his watch. “Shall we go in?”
Dr. Henry Boone’s office is located in Orlando, but closer to the suburbs than the hustle and bustle of the inner city. The waiting room is small and we are shown right in the back.
“You’ve gotten bigger in just the time since I last saw you,” Brian says as he helps me up onto the table. The nurse bustles around before coming at me with the blood pressure cuff.
“That’s always a good thing for a mama to be,” the nurse smiles. I give her a smile back even as I try to yank down my shirt.
Everything hurts. My boobs hurt. My back hurts. My belly button hurts. I know there are women who absolutely love being pregnant.
I am not one of them.
“Blood pressure is fine,” the nurse says. “Dr. Boone will be in shortly.”
Brian is up and looking around before she even closes the door. He pokes at an internal model of a baby in the womb.
“Have you talked to Nick?” he asks.
“No,” I admit. “Not for about a week.”
The longest week of my life. While I love my hideaway, if I’m being completely honest, I’ve missed Nick. Badly. I stare at a poster charting week-by-week baby growth.
“He’s in love with you.”
I look at Brian surprised. He leans back against the counter, pulling himself up.
“God’s put us together for a reason. So I have to wonder what’s the probability that you’d give me a chance instead?”
I’m sure my jaw drops to the ground. “‘Scuse me?”
“Hello folks. How are we doing today?”
Dr. Boone bursts in like a cloud of energy. He’s squeezing my shoulder while I’m still picking my jaw up off the ground.
“Doctor,” Brian extends his hand. “Brian Littrell.”
“And Courtney Standiford,” Dr. Boone confirms with a glance at my chart. “Twenty weeks. Twins. Ah, atrioventricular canal defect in baby girl Littrell.” He sinks down onto a black swivel chair. “So what are we going to do with you guys?”
He smiles and Brian and me. Brian arches his brow and smiles at me. I am still dwelling on his question.
“My thought,” the good doctor forges ahead. “with your permission, is to bring in my top resident. Her name is Dr. Humphrey and she has the most current knowledge of cardio issues in the entire country. I’d like to work with her as a team to keep these babies safely growing in Courtney’s belly for as long as possible. When the time comes to deliver, we’ll also have a plan in place to give baby girl the most immediate care to decrease chances of prolonged developmental complications.”
It sounds too good to be true. Brian is looking at the doctor with almost hero worship.
“I prayed we’d find someone like you,” he says.
“And I prayed for a challenging case for a promising doctor. What do you say?”
Brian’s eyes lock with mine. I nod.
“I like it.”
He smiles. “Me too.”
Dr. Boone hops up and heads to the door. A second later a young, dark haired woman comes in. She doesn’t look old enough to be a resident.
“I’m Dr. Humphrey,” she says, extending her hand. She has a firm handshake. “I”ve read through your records so far. I’d like to plan on an echocardiogram weekly and an ultrasound every other week, increasing to once a week at week thirty.”
“From the tests, it looks like once we deliver the baby girl that we’re going to want to get her into surgery not long after. Chances are that she’ll be extremely blue once she can no longer depend on you. We’ll probably end up putting her under oxygen and scheduling surgery within twenty-four hours. The longer we wait the more risk we run. Of course, the surgery has its own risks.”
Too much information. I can almost picture Nick sticking his fingers into his eyes and trying to listen.
“What’s our chances?”
“If we can keep both babies in to thirty weeks I’ll consider that our first success. I don’t want to give percentages until we get a little more intimate.” She smiles at me. “I hope you’re not shy.”
I laugh. I like her. I trust her. I trust Dr. Boone.
“I feel better about things. Don’t you?”
I’m sitting in a cute little ice cream shop devoid of any customers besides him and I. The neighborhood is low traffic, perfect for a Backstreet Boy that needs to hide and the girl hated more than any other by diehard BSB fans.
“They’ve got a plan. That means a lot to me.”
I scrape a huge chunk of hot fudge from the corner of my bowl. Brian is inhaling the ice cream like its the first meal he’s eaten in years.
“Speaking of planning...we need to make one.”
“Yeah. You and me. After these babies are born they’re going to need both of us.”
The hot fudge is amazing. I almost moan in ecstasy. “I agree.”
“First, let me say this is not me telling you what to do. But I think we’re going to have to stay together at least in the beginning. And if you have enough room, that’s fine. But if wherever you’re staying now isn’t big enough, I’d like for you to move in with me. I’ve got a nice two-bedroom apartment minutes away from here.” He smiles. “My dining room table even has four whole chairs.”
“Brian, I just left Nick’s, I can’t--”
“I don’t mean now. I’m just saying if you end up on bedrest or the babies come early or whatever is going to happen, we need to be prepared. Keep it in the back of your mind, okay?”
I sigh. He has a point. There is literally no room at the inn for the twins. I know once I can’t physically work anymore that I can’t just stay there for free. Kal and I might be fast friends, but I can’t do that.
I’m not a leech.
“What about Leighanne?”
“Leighanne isn’t going to forgive me anytime soon,” Brian says thickly. “I love her, but I talked to my mom and dad a long time last night and I realize that there’s two other people that are going to be depending on me. I can’t be selfish. If things can work themselves out with me and Leighanne then God will make that happen.”
I want to ask him about his earlier question. What did he mean? What kind of chance did he want from me?
“Actually,” he slides his hand across the table. For a second, I think he’s going to hold my hand, but he lifts his hand and I see a key. It’s almost touching my fingers.
“Our tour starts again July 8. After July 11, I won’t be home until Labor Day. If you decide to, you can move yourself in. Even if you don’t move in, I want you to promise that you’re going to call me and keep me posted. If anything goes wrong, I’m off the tour. I’m serious, Court. I’m leaving and coming back here.”
He’s so passionate about this, about being a responsible dad, that I want to cry. This is what I had wanted for Ben the first time, wasn’t it?
Now it was coming true. Maybe this really was all working out for the better. Earlier care was going to save our little girl. It was going to make Brian a hands-on parent. It was going to make Nick---
What was it going to make Nick?