“Jaime, help me,” A.J. called from Lauren’s room, panic in his voice, “Please, come quickly. I need you.”.
The couple had brought their daughter home the day before. A.J. had worked through the night to finish decorating the room and adding the final touches as Jaime rested, so that it was complete for Lauren. It was halfway through the next day, and A.J. had come to the realization already that he hadn’t the slightest clue what he was doing when it came to fathering. He figured it might have helped if he’d been there for Jaime through the majority of her pregnancy. He was sure that they’d learned this kind of thing in the la maze classes or something.
Seconds later, Jaime came rushing into the room, or waddling slightly, an effect of just giving birth a couple of days prior. There was worry on her flushed face, her breathing coming out slightly heavy. A.J. realized the urgency in his voice probably had caused her false anticipation.
“What is it?” Jaime asked, her voice full of concern, her eyes showing signs of worry, “Is Lauren alright?” was the first thing that came to mind..
“I don’t know how to change a diaper,” A.J. muttered, holding up a fresh diaper as Lauren’s bare bottom lay against the changing station. A rolled up used one sat next to her.
Jaime shook her head, laughing slightly. Her heart rate was slowly returning to normal. Lauren lay, smiling up at her father, no harm had come to her at all other than her father being clueless. Jaime walked over to her daughter, grabbing the diaper out of A.J’s hands, wiping her bottom with a wet wipe then putting the diaper on Lauren in one swift, professional movement..
“If you’re going to be a father, you’re gonna have to learn how to do these things,” Jaime joked, taking the used bundle of mess and gently placing it in to the small yellow garbage can a few feet away from them.
A.J. smiled shyly, a blush creeping up on to his cheeks, “Maybe you could teach me how to do these things?” he asked, “Since I never have had any experience before or practice...and kinda missed it all...training and stuff.”
Jaime giggled at how cute he was. Changing a diaper, to her, was self explanatory. A.J, on the other hand, was making it sound like it was a quantum physics experiment
“Now who’s fault is that?” she joked, then saw sadness and regret fill A.J’s eyes. She felt bad for laying a guilt trip on something they’d put behind them, “Sure, I’ll teach ya...next time she needs changed,” Jaime smiled, picking Lauren up and rocking the now sleeping baby, “God, she’s so good...never hardly cries.”
“Shhh,” A.J. scolded, “Don’t say that. It’ll jinx us into a baby that cries all of the time.” he joked lightly, “I never knew that parenthood could feel so good and...well, rewarding and honoring.”
“Me neither,” Jaime whispered, “I never imagined I would be a mother at this age...but I am, and I would never turn back for anything. It really is a great feeling.”
There were a few minutes of silence as the new parents stared lovingly at their baby. Soon, their eyes met. Jaime wished that she and A.J. were married. Then it would be like they were a real family. Sure, they lived together, but to her, it wasn’t enough. She wanted more. She wanted to wake up every morning knowing that she was married to the most amazing man ever to be created, a gorgeous ring as proof. She placed Lauren back in to the crip, placing a soft, fuzzy blanket on top of her body to keep her warm.
Tilting her head to one side, Jaime could sense that something was on A.J’s mind by reading his brown eyes. She wondered why he appeared to be so troubled, the worst possible scenarios coming to mind as she looked at the far away look in his eyes.
“What is it?” she asked softly, reaching up and placing a hand lovingly and comfortingly on his strong left bicep.
A.J. shrugged, making Jaime know that he hadn’t been so far out of it. His face showed traces of pain and some regret and remorse.
“I...I just was hoping that Kevin would have woken up by the time that we had Lauren,” he explained, “It’s not the same as it would have been if he were awake and well. He’s missed so damn much...including one of the most important days of my life.”
Sympathy filled Jaime’s eyes. She wished too that Kevin had been awake to witness her and A.J’s little miracle. It surly wouldn’t be the same when he woke up as it would have been if he’d been conscious. So much time had passed since Kevin’s suicide attempt. Sure, a little under a month and a half wasn’t that much time, but a lot could happen in so little time. Their lives were very much proof of that.
She walked over to A.J and pulled him in to her arms. He graciously accepted as she hugged him tightly, feeling his thin, muscular body tremble in her grasp. She couldn’t imagine how hard it must be on him knowing that his best friend of over a decade was hurt. It was hard on her, and she’d known him for just under a year.
“He’ll wake up eventually,” Jaime stated soothingly, trying to encourage her distraught boyfriend, although she said it through gritted teeth, hoping that this was true, “He’ll wake up sooner or later. I can feel it.”
“We don’t know that for sure though,” A.J. wept, sighing dramatically, “How can we be so sure of that when nothing is one hundred percent certain? The doctors haven’t even given us any hope to hold on to of the chances being decent.”
Jaime said nothing, looking over the edge of the crib at her sleeping daughter. She didn’t know how anything was certain. The fact of the matter was that nothing was. So Jaime said nothing, not wanting to convince AJ with false hope. All she could do was wonder how old Lauren would be when, thinking on a positive note, Kevin did wake up. All they could do was hope and pray for the best to happen, and that their friend would awaken within a very short time.
Anna once again walked in to the isolated room that Kevin was so soundly asleep in. She sighed, looking at him, then eyeing his body up and down. The therapy during his comatose state had done him wonders. It didn’t appear that he’d lost all that much of his muscle definition, although it was evident that once he woke up, he’d have to work to gain back some of what he had lost. Anna walked over to his bedside, sitting on a chair that was next to it. She took his hand in hers, rubbing it gently. Anna watched his chest slowly rise and fall. It showed her proof enough that he was still living. Because of him looking the exact same since he’d come it, Anna honestly was in a toss up between believing he really was alive or had long since passed. So every time she was in doubt, all she did was look for any sort of breathing pattern and she had all the convincing she needed that he was still with her, in some way.
“Hi again, sweetie,” Anna softly, “Not much new going on here,” she told him, “I just wanted to come and see you.”
She continued to hold his hand, staring at his strong, masculine features. She longed to stare in to his green eyes again. He had the most beautiful shade of green eyes, like emeralds, only softer. She hadn’t seen the true shade in so long. They’d lost their shine due to depression, turning into a dull shade. Now, his eyes were closed constantly and the memory of how his eyes had once looked was beginning to fade. She missed staring in to them. She missed cuddling up next to him on their king sized bed right before falling asleep then waking up in his strong arms. She missed the feel of his lips against hers, returning the passionate kisses with the same eagerness as her own. She missed everything about him. Anna would rather Kevin be alive, awake and paralyzed for the rest of his life than to not have him at all. That was how she felt though...like she didn’t have him in her life at all. He was alive, yet he wasn’t. He was there in the flesh, yet he wasn’t. If there was one thing that Anna refused to do though, that was to give up on him. She wanted Kevin in her life romantically, and if that meant waiting until he woke up and was alert, they by all means, she was gong to do it.
“ I know I tell you this every day, but I miss you so much,” she stated, trying to hold her tears back. She had to stay strong for him. Breaking down in to tears would not help matters. If anything, it would make things worse. She sniffled, knowing that her voice was about to start rising, “God, why’d you have to go and do this? Were things really that bad, Kevin? Seriously, was your life really so bad that you wanted to end it?”
She paused, not even trying to hold back her tears anymore. She’d stayed strong for so long, but was lonely without him there to carry on a conversation with, and to feel his skin against hers. In a way, she felt as if this were all her fault. Since she lived with him, she felt that there could have been something to prevent any of this from happening. If only she’d paid better attention to the small details. It could have changed everything.
With a long sigh, Anna knew that this was all of her fault. If she hadn’t gone out with Nathan in the first place, Kevin, who she knew had been crazy for her, would never have left her house so angry. That’s when the whole thing had started. That’s when he’d become paralyzed and his happy, confident self had turned into something unknown to all of them. The thing was, nobody knew that she was still blaming herself for everything. They all thought that she’d let go of the guilty feelings, however that was not the case at all. Now, they were just bottled up so tight inside of her that it was making her ill to think about it all. As she looked back down at Kevin, she began to speak to him again, taming her tears to the best of her ability.
“You had so much going for you. You had an awesome career, potential to get well...four amazing friends. You had me...and I love you more than anything. If you’d just wake up and get well, you could have all of that again. You know we’re all here for you though, right?” Anna forced a smile, even though he couldn’t see it. She was remembering all of the good times they’d had prior to his comatose days, “If you’d just wake up again, you’d have everything going for you again. People love you, no matter what. You have a career waiting for you. You can still get well. You have all of us cheering you on. All you need to do is wake up...please, Kevin...baby. Please, wake up.”
Anna stifled a loud sob she could feel coming. She hated the fact that she was breaking down around him, but after keeping everything in, she needed to let it all out. She felt that nobody would understand all of the pressure that she was lying upon herself. She had constant stress headaches for nobody wanted to listen to her explain why it was her fault to begin with. Those were the same thoughts that kept pounding at her brain.
“Well...I’m going to go now. I’ll be back again tomorrow though. I promise,” she bent down and kissed Kevin’s forehead, brushing her lips gently against his skin, “See you soon, baby. I love you.”
She watched him for a few more moments, still holding his hand in hers. She was about to let go to leave when she felt the slightest movement of Kevin’s fingers curling lightly around hers.
“Hey Steph, wanna go out to dinner tonight?” Nick asked, walking in to the room where his girlfriend was writing.
Stephanie tensed, but continued to work. It was the day after her encounter with Willa. Almost immediately after Nick had returned from getting drinks, she’d left, saying she was tired and going to sleep for the night. She trusted Nick enough to leave the woman alone with him. She didn’t want to cause a scene though, figuring she could spout off her feelings after the woman had gone. The thing was, the more that Stephanie thought about the fact that Nick was actually letting Willa into his life again after all she’d done to him, the angrier she’d gotten. So when Nick had come to join her in bed, she had pretended to already be asleep to avoid talking to him, and hadn’t been speaking to him since. It hadn’t been hard though either, beings she had tried as hard as she could to not see him, and succeeded...until that moment.
“Steph, did ya hear me?” Nick asked again.
Stephanie sighed, grabbing her notebook and pen, standing up an walking past him, slipping through the doorway and away from the man. Nick turned around, watching her walk away, confusion written on his face. He scratched his head, clueless, wondering what he’d done wrong. He took a few steps, chasing after her.
“Stephanie,” Nick called, “What’s wrong? We don’t have to go out if you don’t want to. It was just a suggestion.”
Stephanie continued to ignore Nick as she made her way in to the living room, plopping down on to the couch. She bent her knee and brought one leg up, resting the notebook on it, curling the other leg under her. She began to write again. She tried her best to block out the vision of Nick standing right in front of her as well as ignore his voice that kept interrupting her thoughts.
“Stephie”. He whined. “Why won’t you talk to me?”
Stephanie sighed in annoyance as she slammed the notebook down on to the couch. Swinging her legs over the edge, she stood up, walking away again, bound and determined to get rid of Nick for awhile. He was getting on her last nerve. Nick followed her again, just as determined as her, only his motive was to get her to speak with him. She continued to walk away with Nick trailing right at her heels.
“Stephanie,” Nick tried again.
Stephanie spun around glaring at him. Nick could tell that she was furious, but he hadn’t a clue as to why. It made no sense to him. As far as he was concerned, he had not done a thing wrong.
“Go away you little mutant”. She hissed. “Why don’t you just go stick your head up your ass and...and...and crap it back out.”
“ Huh”? He asked, tilting his head to one side, his expression saying that he was completely lost, “ How is that possible”?
“ Nick just shut up and be.......you. Or better yet, be normal for once,” She suggested in a huff,. “ The less you talk, the less chance there is that you have of losing anymore brain cells or lack there of.”
Nick just stared at Stephanie, his mouth hanging open. His brain was working on overdrive trying to figure out what she had meant.
“ Was that an insult”? Nick asked scratching his head in confusion. “Cuz it sure sounded like one.”
Stephanie just shook her head in disgust, turning away from Nick. She tried to walk away, but he grabbed her, spinning her around, holding on to her shoulders firmly yet gently to keep her in place. He stared at her for a moment, trying to read her eyes and search her soul to see what she was thinking, but she was keeping him out, making it impossible for him to find out anything.
“Honey, what’s this really about?” Nick asked softly, dismissing all of the cruel things she’d just spat off at him.
“Nothing,” Stephanie mumbled, trying to fight out of his grasp, but he wasn’t letting up.
“Please tell me?” Nick begged, “Let me know what I did wrong to make you so upset with me, so I can fix it.”
Stephanie sighed. She didn’t think she really needed to explain things, or had to if she didn’t want to speak to him. If Nick would just think and use his head for once, she was pretty sure that he could figure out why she was so perturbed with him. She looked in to his eyes, seeing that he really wanted to know. She decided to just let him know and get it over with so he would leave her in peace for awhile so she could calm herself.
“You,” she spat, “Willa...” she stuttered, not able to form complete sentences through her built up fury.
“Honey, I told you...Willa just wants to be friends and is concerned about Kevin.
Stephanie snorted, wanting to slap some sense in to Nick. He was too trusting of people...no exceptions. She wished that he thought more rationally and logically about things rather than always trying to see the best in people.
“You let that demonic bitch in to our house,” she nearly screamed, “After all she did to you, you practically welcome her in with open arms. How can you not see that she’s up to something?
Nick laughed. He pulled Stephanie in to a hug, and she thought that he was actually taking her words in to consideration. She was wrong.
“She was just worried about Kevin, so I informed her,” he grinned, feeling proud of himself over this fact.
Stephanie laughed bitterly, wondering if she’d ever convince Nick that Willa was not what she seemed underneath the surface. Willa had shown her true side to Stephanie when Nick had left the room. If only she could make Nick see that side somehow.
“Did it ever occur to you that she wants something out of you?” Stephanie screamed, “For ten months, Kevin was paralyzed, for almost two of those months, a coma. She had more than enough time to show her concerns. Yet she didn’t, until now.”
Nick shook his head, totally not buying in to her accusations of a woman whom should have been on his hate list for life. He could see that Stephanie was furious with him, however he felt she really had no real good reasons to be.
“People can change, Steph,” Nick said softly, “Don’t be jealous of a friend. That’s all she is. I love you. You’re my girlfriend....my one and only.”
This caused Stephanie to laugh loudly. His accusation cracked her up, as she found it hysterical. Shaking her head, Stephanie forced her laughter to die down so she could speak, knowing she was going to sound like she was speaking to a toddler. Sometimes though, with Nick, that’s exactly what needed to be done.
“Nick, I am not jealous of that woman,” Stephanie informed him, “What’s to be jealous of? She’s a whore, and a nasty one at that.”
“Then what’s this really about?” Nick questioned, realizing for the first time that Stephanie was no longer in his arms. She’d pulled away and was now standing a good five feet away from him, “If you’re not jealous of my befriending her, then what’s with the attitude?”
Nick knew that he was digging himself a hole in this relationship, but he had to know. He could tell that he was not on Stephanie, the love of his life’s, favorite people list but knew he could fix that with a little romance and sincerity.
“She is after something,” Stephanie cried in frustration, “Have you not been listening to me this entire time, you bone head.”
“She’s not after anything,” Nick said, “She was before...yes, but not this time. She is not stupid enough to try it again.”
Nick walked over and gave Stephanie a kiss on the lips, giving her an assured smile, which to her looked moronic and full of stupidity. He then walked away, telling her that their conversation was well past over.
“She is after something...your money,” Stephanie whispered, wishing she could tell him about what Willa had said. But even if she did, Nick would not believe her. His head was straight set on trusting the satanic woman, “You’re only going to end up hurt again, and when you do, I might not be here for you to fall back on.”