“My ‘Rincess!” Baylee announced loudly as the credits of Lion King began to roll, jumping up from the couch to tumble into the kitchen. There he found Austin preparing dinner and Kevin reading the paper, both somewhat weary from the county fair. But, Baylee didn’t seem too concerned as he tugged on Austin’s jean shorts impatiently. He was anxious to wake up Cheyanne, who had been sleeping since he returned from the fair. He wanted to give her the teddy bear, but Nick had stomped a foot down, telling him no. Cheyanne was exhausted and needed to sleep, emphasizing the words as he left to walk out to the mailbox. Baylee had been near tears when Austin suggested he watch a movie then he could wake up Cheyanne. Now, the movie was over and he hadn’t forgotten. “Lion King over! C’I wake up my Angel now? P’ease?”
"Already?" Austin questioned, jerking her shorts up before Baylee revealed the Promised Land. Glancing at Kevin, she saw he was immersed in the local news. "Why don't we have some dinner first? You can help me stir the butterbeans… And while you're at it, you can tell Kevvy to get off his lazy butt and go get onions from the garden like I asked him to ten minutes ago."
“No!” Baylee argued with annoyed protest. “You p’omised, ‘Rincess! After movie, I get my Angel!”
"Baylee, please. Your Angel needs her rest," Austin informed him gently, nudging Kevin's shoulder as she passed him, hoping for his help.
"You can go in there on one condition, Bay," Kevin stated from behind the newspaper. Without glancing over it, he continued slowly. "If she's asleep, you don't wake her up, got it? Just peek in on her, and come back in here with me and Princess if she's not awake."
“ONE ‘DITION MET!” Baylee announced, pealing a squeal of delight as he rushed toward the bedroom, stumbling several times because of his excitement.
"God, if she's asleep, all his noise is going to wake her up," Austin groaned, pulling a knife from the drawer. "And I'm still waiting on my onions…" she trailed softly, waving the knife in Kevin's direction.
“Well, if she’s up before he gets in the room, he didn’t technically wake her up, huh?” Kevin answered, yelping when Austin thrust the knife toward him. He immediately rose from his seat, hurrying outside to get the onions as requested.
Meanwhile, Baylee was easing the bedroom door open to Cheyanne’s room, peering inside the darkness. He fully expected to see his angel curled amongst the covers, so his sapphire eyes widened in surprise when he found a stripped bed and Moth scratching furiously at the bathroom door. Easing his tiny body inside, he glanced around for a source of Cheyanne, hearing the sound of shower water drown. Grinning, Baylee hurried toward the door, fumbling with the knob until he fell inside with Moth underneath him. The puppy yelped in shock at the weight, but Baylee’s confusion rested on Cheyanne. “My Angel?”
“Darlin’?” Cheyanne whispered with soft confusion as she held tightly to the glass door of her shower, clutching the thick towel around her small body. She had woke up from her nap drenched in blood. Fearful of discovery, she had hid her sheets and rushed off to the bathroom to rinse the blood away. But, she had felt so woozy in the shower, unable to keep herself in an upright position as the blood continued to seep between her legs. She could barely recognize Baylee as she stumbled to get out of the tub, only succeeding in collapsing on the closed lid of the toilet. Bending over with the sharp cramps wrapping around her abdomen to her back, her breathing labored. “What are you doing here?”
"You otay, My Angel?" Baylee questioned immediately, his brows furrowing in concern as she grasped her abdomen. "What wrong?"
“I’m just a little sick, Darlin’,” Cheyanne told him softly, her eyes fluttering dramatically as she attempted to concentrate on him. But, all Baylee’s form did was blur dramatically. Finally squeezing her eyes shut, she moaned painful as another contraction ripped through her body, causing another gush of blood. She was having Olivia. There was no doubt in her mind, but she didn’t want to panic Austin or Kevin or Baylee, but most importantly, Nick.
"I get My 'Rincess for you," Baylee decided, stepping backwards from the bathroom, his eyes wide with worry. At Cheyanne's soft, pained cry, he flew into a panic, changing his mind immediately. Rushing from the room, Moth at his heels, he darted down the hallway, through the kitchen, scanning the backyard to find Kevin coming from the garden. "KEVVY!" he screamed, rushing over to him, his heart pounding with nervousness over Cheyanne. "MY ANGEL SICK! HER BLEEDING IN HER BAFFROOM!"
“What?” Kevin questioned in confusion, Baylee’s screams almost too high pitched to understand as he naturally dropped the onions in surprise. Leaning down, he scooped the frightened toddler from the floor, attempting to smooth his blonde curls as Baylee struggled. The worry etched in Baylee’s frightened eyes made Kevin’s stomach clench as Moth nipped furiously at his heels, whining loudly. “What’s wrong, Bay?”
"HER SICK! HER BLEEDING!" Baylee screeched, tugging hard on Kevin's shirt. "You gotta help her, Kevvy!"
Austin's knife clattered to the floor. Meeting Kevin's eyes over Baylee's head, she felt her heart turn over. "Are you sure, Baylee?" she asked softly.
“Look… I’ll go check on her, Bay. Princess, watch him,” Kevin decided, pushing the hysterical toddler into Austin’s arms. Offering what he hoped was an encouraging smile, he raced back the hallway, praying that Baylee was wrong.
"We go too, 'Rincess? My Angel needs me…" Baylee trailed pitifully, dangerously close to tears as he clung to Austin's bare arms. As he spoke, however, Austin went after Kevin, holding Baylee close to her as she raced into Cheyanne's bedroom.
“WE NEED AN AMBULANCE, PRINCESS!” Kevin bellowed from inside the bathroom, not expecting Austin to be almost behind him.
"Stay here," Austin directed Baylee as she placed him on the bed before hurrying into the bathroom. Surveying the scene, she drew in a painful breath, her gaze resting on Cheyanne's pale face. "There's no time for an ambulance… Get her in the car. Now!"
“I’m having Ollie, Austi,” Cheyanne whimpered painfully as heavy tears raced down her pale face, her body continuing to sink lower with weakness, relying on Kevin for full support. Darkness began to seep inward on her sight as her hearing faded and she feared she might lose consciousness.
"Everything's going to be okay, Angel," Kevin murmured softly as he lifted her into his arms. "Austin, call the hospital and let them know we're on our way." Wrapping her bathrobe around her, he stepped into the bedroom to see Baylee sitting on the edge of the bed, clutching a nervous Moth. "Bay… I need you to do something very important for Angel, okay? Go to the closet and get me the softest towels you can find, and bring them to the car." Cradling Cheyanne as gently as possible, he headed for the door.
“Towels!” Baylee repeated, rushing out to the hallway to where the girls stored the extra towels, actually bypassing Kevin who continued to murmur soft encouragement to Cheyanne. Baylee was shaking furiously as he fumbled with the door, noticing Nick sauntering into the living room with a stack of mail. Crying out, Baylee rushed backward, clenching Nick’s hand. “T’mon, Nicky, come get soft towels for my Angel! Hurry!”
"Towels for…" Nick's words ended in a soft gasp of horror when he saw Kevin carrying Cheyanne. "What--"
"TOWELS FOR MY ANGEL!"
“Yes, Cheyanne Lorde. C-H-E-Y-A-N-N-E L-O-R-D-E. She’s twenty-three years of age, in preterm labor, and we already know that she has a placental abruption. She’s technically due late next month… There’s a ton of blood in her bedroom and… Her obstetrician is Dr. Synder. My fiancÚ and I are bringing her in the car, because it’ll take too long for an ambulance to arrive… Please, be ready for her,” Austin rambled into her cell phone as she stepped in front of Baylee and Nick, grasping all the towels she could possibly handle.
Baylee immediately reached for towels to hold, needing to feel useful. "Nicky?" he whimpered, gazing up at him as Austin followed Kevin outside, pausing only to grab the packed overnight bag that stood waiting by the front door. "My Angel be otay, right?"
“I…I hope so, Bay…”
Perched on the stool next to the operating table, Austin willed herself to breathe normally as the nurses bustled around them, speaking in a language Austin was sure, were she awake enough to care, Cheyanne would be able to decipher for her. Holding her best friend's hand gently, she glanced up at the clock. It seemed they had been in the hospital for hours, and she was shocked when she realized it had only been a matter of moments. Leaning over, she brushed Cheyanne's pale cheek with her lips. "It's going to be okay," she murmured softly as Dr. Synder stepped in.
“Hello, Austin and Cheyanne,” Dr. Synder called sweetly as she entered the room, acting as if this were a normal everyday procedure. Her hands were raised toward the ceiling as a nurse stood behind the physician, immediately dressing her in layers of sterilized garments and gloves. Her kind eyes smiled from above the mask she wore, though it gave Austin no assurance. “Seems Olivia is having a bit of distress from the readings. So, we’re going to be quick about this. How long have you been bleeding, Cheyanne?”
“A few hours,” Cheyanne whispered weakly as her doctor disappeared behind the curtain across her chest to prevent her from seeing the operation. Not that her eyesight was too acute at the moment. Instead, she willed herself to keep her eyes shut, ignoring the pressure that had accumulated with the epidural and just praying that she didn’t pass out. She didn’t want to worry Austin anymore.
After a few long moments, Austin leaned forward to see over the curtain as Dr. Synder spoke of making the incision. Feeling a hand on her shoulder she glanced back to see the anesthesiologist, Dr. Lee, shaking his head gently. Returning to her seat, she held Cheyanne's hand, her mind praying fervently that everything was going to be alright.
“You’re going to feel pressure, Cheyanne, okay?” Dr. Synder drawled.
“Okay,” Cheyanne mumbled, bringing one of her trembling hands up to rub her aching face. She winced slightly at the force of pressure exerted on her abdomen, but said nothing as she sought Austin’s hand with her free hand, hoping not to tangle one of the many IV’s they had inserted. “Austi… Are you mad at me?”
"No, baby girl… Why would I be mad at you?" Austin murmured softly, smiling slightly.
“’Cause I didn’t tell you I was bleeding… Because Nicky and I…” Cheyanne trailed off slightly when she realized that entire operating room filled with people would hear the conversation. Not having enough blood circulating to blush, Cheyanne gingerly brushed her fingers against Austin’s hand. “Is Nicky okay?”
"It's okay, Chey… I promise. And Nicky's fine… Bay's keeping him busy in the waiting room," Austin assured her, stretching the truth so Cheyanne wouldn't worry. In truth, the last time she'd seen Nick he'd been standing in the hall just outside the operating room, his face stricken with worry. He'd murmured something to her about being sorry, but his voice had been so shaky Austin hadn't been able to understand him. His last words before Austin had gone through the doors, I love her, were still fresh in her memory.
“It’s not his fault,” Cheyanne whispered softly.
"It's not anybody's fault," Austin whispered fervently, resting her head next to Cheyanne's. "Ollie was just ready to make her debut."
“And I thought I was going to be pregnant forever,” Cheyanne attempted to tease lightly, nauseated at the smell of burnt flesh as they cauterized the tissues they were cutting through to minimize her bleeding.
"Yeah… Me too." Austin lifted her head slightly when she heard Dr. Synder's voice raise to speak to them.
"Ladies, we have a little girl about to come into the world."
“I can’t wait to hold her,” Cheyanne confessed softly as she felt several tugs around her numbed midsection followed by a steady pressure, then another firm tug and release. A strangled cry pierced the room, followed by several coos from the nurses. Cheyanne felt hot tears streak down her face at the sucking sound of the nurses clearing the baby’s airway, followed by several loud wails.
“Five pounds even and eighteen inches long, Cheyanne!” Dr. Synder called proudly over the draped curtain. “We’re just giving her some oxygen real quick because she was under distress. Hold on for me, Sweetheart!”
“Olivia…” Cheyanne breathed.
Unable to resist, Austin hopped off her stool, peeking over the curtain at the squirming bundle in the nurse's arms. A tiny oxygen mask over an open mouth, one blue-tinged foot kicking aimlessly in the air. Diverting her gaze from the mass of blood and the open incision in Cheyanne's abdomen, she focused her attention on the baby. "Olivia," she whispered, tears gathering in her eyes as the mask was removed. The nurses leaned close together, one holding Olivia, the other rubbing her limbs with a warm blanket. Dr. Synder glanced up at Austin, a gentle smile on her face.
"Would you like to cut the cord, Austin?"
“Me?” Austin blanked.
“Aunt Austi, Godmother Extraordinaire,” Cheyanne laughed softly with a warm relief that Olivia was okay. “Go cut the cord.”
Smiling with relief, Austin stepped forward as the curtain was pulled down slightly, a pair of scissors pressed into her hand by one of the nurses. Swallowing the lump in her throat, she quickly cut the cord where indicated between the clamps. Immediately Olivia was pulled away, settled onto the small table covered in blankets. Watching, Austin felt her tears spill onto her cheeks as the nurse bundled her up.
Olivia made a soft cooing sound, causing everyone in the operating room to coo with delight as the nurse placed a cap over her fine blonde hair. "Here we go," the nurse murmured softly, lifting her into her arms and bringing her to Austin. "Ready to meet your Auntie?"
Taking her, Austin stared down at the dark blue eyes, immediately seeing how closely Olivia resembled Cheyanne. Blinking her tears away, she returned to the stool, holding the baby next to her friend's chest so she could see. "There's your Momma," she cooed softly. "…Welcome to the world, Olivia Austin…"
“You’re such a little thing,” Cheyanne whispered in awe, tentatively reaching to delicately stroke her daughter’s cheek. Olivia practically drowned within the blankets and the small hat, but she was beautiful. So very beautiful. Cheyanne knew her mother would be the first to pull out the baby books and compare pictures of her daughter and granddaughter. There was no hint of Noah anywhere within Olivia. Not that it mattered. Cheyanne would have loved her regardless of her looks. Tears spilled down her face as Olivia turned in the direction of her mother’s finger to suckle, making a nasally coo that caused the new mother to laugh. Leaning, Cheyanne offered a kiss to her daughter’s forehead. “Don’t seem right that you were the one doing all the kickin’.”
Austin dropped a kiss on Cheyanne's cheek as Dr. Synder announced they were about to remove the placenta. "You did such a good job, Little Momma…" Seeing Cheyanne interact with Olivia only made her desire for children grow, and she suddenly wondered what her children would look like. Gazing down at Olivia, she smiled some more, tracing the tiny nose with her pinkie finger. "You, my little Ollie, are going to be spoiled rotten," she assured her.
“Can’t we just spoil her sweet?” Cheyanne suggested, continuing to watch her daughter, never realizing that her rate of breathing had been increasing steadily. Something felt odd within her system, but she couldn’t identify it as her heart began to accelerate.. “’Cause then I’ll have to listen to you comment how she’s like Darlin’…” Cheyanne’s voice trailed off with a hazy cloud of confusion as a cool sweat began to coat her ashen face. Alarms triggering from what seemed to be every angle. “…Austi…Something doesn’t feel--”
Austin released a soft cry of terror when Cheyanne's head slumped to the side. Clutching Olivia to her chest, she looked around for help, backing away when a nurse stepped forward to take the baby from her. "Chey--"
"She'll be alright. Just a little distress from the blood loss. We'll take the baby to the nursery--"
"No!" Austin stared at Cheyanne, holding Olivia as tightly as she dared. But the nurse eased the baby from her arms, and before she could realize it, she was being pulled towards the door. Dr. Synder was no longer smiling, and everyone else was crowded around the operating table as Olivia was carried out the opposite door. "Please, let me stay with Chey--"
“You can’t stay with her, Austin,” the nurse insisted, “We’re going to take good care of her, but you need to wait in the waiting room.”
"But--" Her words fell on deaf ears as she was forced from the operating room. The doors pulled shut immediately, and when she heard the click of them fastening she felt her heart break. "Chey…" Looking around helplessly, she saw Kevin standing by the waiting room. As though sensing her presence, he looked up, and when she saw the concern on his face she burst into tears.