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Author's Chapter Notes:
Sorry it's been so long! Been super busy with school and exams. Hope you like this.
Nick shifted uncomfortably, tugging at the cushion behind his head as he turned onto his side and lay staring into the back of Hannah’s sofa. The apartment was silent apart from the irregular hums and clicks coming from the refrigerator. Daylight had begun to filter through the thin curtain behind the sofa and Nick closed his eyes against it, willing himself to go back to sleep.
For minutes he lay, his eyes closed tight, listening to the sounds coming from the kitchen. A new noise crept into his semi-consciousness and he pulled himself up to sit sideways on the sofa. The gentle tinkling continued and Nick turned his head, trying to work out where it was coming from. Pushing the blankets off, he got to his feet and crossed the room to stand outside Hannah’s door. Nick held his breath as he listened intently but no sound came from the room. Moving to the next door, he pressed his ear against the wood and listened. The metallic tinkling carried through the door and Nick moved his head away. The baby was awake. Chewing thoughtfully on his bottom lip, Nick reached for the doorhandle and turned it. Pushing the door open slowly, he peered into the semi-darkness of what had once been Hannah’s spare room. Pale blue paint had replaced the tatty wallpaper he remembered and a large dinosaur printed rug covered most of the bare floorboards. Under the window, where Hannah’s desk had once stood, a white painted crib and changing table sat side by side. Jack looked out at Nick from a corner of the crib, his blond hair ruffled by sleep and his thumb in his mouth. In his free hand he held a soft toy cow complete with a bell around its neck.
“Hey…” Nick began as he took a nervous step towards the crib. “What’s that you’ve got?”
Jack stared back at him, wide-eyed and curious as Nick moved closer.
“Is that a cow? Have you got a cow in there?” Nick asked.
Jack pulled his thumb from his mouth and clutched his toy with both hands.
“Moo cow,” he replied, clinging desperately to the animal.
Standing beside the crib, Nick smiled.
“It’s a moo cow? Can I see it?”
“Moo cow,” Jack repeated, hesitating before holding the toy out to Nick.
“Wow… It’s got a bell and everything,” Nick said as he tapped the bell gently with his index finger.
Jack grinned and wriggled closer across the mattress. Smiling, Nick handed the toy back and looked at his watch. 6:45am. Surely Hannah would be getting up soon.
“How about we get you up?“ he asked.
Jack stared blankly back at him and Nick ran a hand through his hair as he looked down at his him. He didn’t even know where to begin. Leaning forward, he clasped Jack under the arms and lifted him out of the crib. The smell hit him instantly.
“Wow… Wow…” he muttered, holding his son at arms length. “That is not a good start, Jack.”
Laying him down on the changing table, Nick stood back and looked at his son. Jack chewed contently on the hind leg of his cow as he stared back.
“Okay… If I were a clean diaper, where would I be?” Nick asked aloud, looking around the room.
“Under the changing table,” Hannah said from the doorway. “You’re not really going to change him, are you?”
Nick turned to face her and shrugged.
“I have to learn sometime.”
“Have you done it before?” Hannah asked as she joined him by the changing table and bent to kiss Jack’s forehead. “Good morning, sunshine.”
“No, but I’ve seen other people do it,” Nick replied, moving aside as Hannah reached under the table. “It can’t be too hard.”
Hannah smiled as she pulled Jack towards her by the ankles.
“How about if you watch me do this one and you have a go later? I think we should start you off on something… Less offensive.”
“Okay,” Nick agreed, leaning against the crib and folding his arms across his chest. “You know… That really is offensive. Is he sick or something?”
Hannah smiled again as she pulled the sticky tabs on Jack’s diaper back.
“This is normal. You just get used to it after a while, I guess. It’s not so bad.”
“It worries me that you don’t think this is bad,” Nick said, fighting the urge to cover his nose.
“Eight hours in labour, Nick. That’s bad. This is nothing.”
Nick watched the rest of the changing in silence, only half listening to Hannah’s instructions. Eight hours in labour. Eight whole hours she had spent in pain, bringing their son into the world without him. He remembered the day Jack was born only because Hannah had called and left a message on his mobile that night. He had been out all day, choosing new carpet with Cassie. Choosing new carpet while Hannah gave birth without him. He had missed her call because Alex and his lady of the moment had come for dinner and stayed well into the night. Pangs of guilt speared him in the stomach when he thought back over his day. He knew deep down he wouldn’t have taken her call anyway. In the months after he left her, he had stood staring his mobile while her number flashed on screen more times than he cared to think about.
“Nick? Are you even listening?”
Nick snapped back to the present at the sound of Hannah’s voice. Pushing Jack’s legs into a pair of shorts, she looked questioningly at him as she tugged the pants up.
“Sorry, I was miles away,” he replied, moving forward. “I can do that.”
“It’s okay, I’m almost done. Can you get some socks from the top drawer?”
Nick did as he was asked, returning to the changing table, striped socks in hand.
“Let me,” he said, ignoring Hannah’s extended hand. “I can manage a pair of socks, Hannah.”
Hannah stepped aside and watched as Nick did his best to wrangle Jack’s squirming feet into the socks.
“You’re not making this easy, kid,” he muttered, grabbing at an ankle as Jack’s foot shot dangerously close to his face. “Hold still for a second.”
Jack laughed and held his toy cow out towards Nick.
“Moo cow!”
“Yeah, moo cow,” Nick repeated, standing back and smiling triumphantly at Hannah. “Told you I could manage a pair of socks.”
Hannah smiled as she moved past him and scooped Jack up from the table.
“Well done. How about you see if you can dress yourself now?”
Nick looked down at his boxer shorts and bare legs - it hadn’t even occurred to him to put trousers on. Like so many other things, his status in Hannah’s apartment had changed.