Page 56 of RoomHate

The doctor came in shortly after I returned to my spot at Bea’s bedside.

“Ms. Payne…”

I stood up, feeling the weight of my heavy, terrified heart. “Yes?”

“We just received the results of the tests on her internal condition. There are no internal injuries aside from a slight fracturing of the ribs, which will heal on its own. Her neurological assessment seems okay, too, but that’s what I want to watch over the next day before we can consider releasing her. I no longer think she needs to be in the intensive care unit, so we’re going to move her to a regular room on one of the main floors.”

A massive sense of relief washed over me. “Doctor, thank you. Thank you. I could hug you. Can I hug you?” When he nodded uncomfortably, I embraced him. “Thank you so much.”

“It could have been very serious. We see this very same scenario end differently all too often. Babies or toddlers choking on grapes, hot dogs, small toys. You’re very lucky.”

After the doctor left, I typed out a text to Justin.

Thank God! The doctor thinks she’s going to be okay. They want to watch her for at least the next twenty-four hours, though. I’m so happy right now!

There was no response.

Soon after, they moved us to a new room on the third floor. Lying in her new bed, Bea had her eyes open and looked confused as she gazed up at the panels of fluorescent lights on the ceiling. She seemed alert, but not her typical happy self. She was probably wondering what the hell she was doing here.

They told me I could hold her again. Even though she’d been getting vitamins and fluids through an IV, they suggested I feed her. I’d been giving her more formula than breastmilk lately, but I chose to nurse her because I knew it would comfort her. I was relieved that she was eating with no problem. With every minute that passed, I became more confident that my baby was going to be okay.

She had to be.

After I returned Bea to her bed, Shelly, the nurse, came in to check her vitals. So focused on everything Shelly was doing, I almost didn’t notice him standing there.

Justin was in the doorway, his chest rising and falling as he took in the sight of Bea lying in the hospital bed. Even though he’d said he was getting on a plane, I hadn’t heard anything from him for the past several hours and wasn’t sure if he’d been able to get a flight. His hair was a mess, and his eyes were red. Despite looking ragged and almost strung out, he was still stunningly handsome.

My heart leapt. “Justin.”

He said nothing and hadn’t taken his eyes off Bea as he walked slowly toward the bed. He looked like he was in shock to see her lying there, looking so weak. “She’s okay?”

“We think so, yes. You didn’t get my texts?”

His eyes still glued to Bea, he shook his head. “No. No, I was on the plane, and my phone died. I took the first flight I could get out of LAX and came straight here.”

Shelly looked at him. “Are you her father?”

Justin reached his hand out to Bea’s cheek and gently rubbed it as he said, “Yes.” His answer was a shock. Chills ran through me when he looked at me and repeated, “Yes, I am.”

When he turned his attention back to her, his red eyes became filled with moisture. In all the years I’d known him, I had never seen Justin shed a single tear. He sat down in the seat on the other side of Bea.

Shelly noticed that Justin had started to cry, and said, “I’ll give you some privacy.”

When the door clicked behind her, Justin lowered his face into the bed and kissed Bea lightly on the cheek. Still equal-parts stunned and touched at his proclaiming himself her father, I waited for him to speak. It took a while for the words to come. He just stared at her, a look of awe and relief ever so slowly replacing the shock from earlier. I knew he noticed that she wasn’t her normal self. It was hard not to see it. Bea would have been smiling or giggling at him by now. Instead, she was merely awake but quiet. I hoped it was just because she hadn’t seen him in a while and not a sign of something more serious.

“I love you, Bumblebee. I’m sorry it’s taken me this long to tell you.” He wiped his eyes then turned to me. “I’ve never been more scared in my life, Amelia. I was afraid something would happen to her before I could get here, that I’d never see her smile again, that I’d never have a chance to tell her how much I want to be her father. The whole flight here, I prayed to God, bargained with him, that if she turned out to be okay, I wouldn’t let another second go by without telling her I loved her. The thing is…even without my saying it…she already thinks I’m her Daddy. I know I’m not her biological father, but she doesn’t know that. Blood doesn’t make someone a father anyway. What makes me her father is that she chose me. She owned me from the moment she first smiled at me. And while that used to scare the shit out of me, I couldn’t imagine life without her now.”

“I thought you didn’t want kids.”

“So did I. Maybe I didn’t want some generic imagined kids. But I want her.” He repeated in a whisper, “I want her.”

Now, I was crying, too. “She loves you, too, you know. Very much.”

“I’m the only father she’s ever known. And she thinks I left without explanation. That kills me every day.”

“What’s happening with the tour?”

“Well, they’re without an opening act now for the Christmas shows in L.A., but Calvin understands my situation. They’re gonna wing it. They all know how much Bea means to me. They said they would make due for the next few shows if need be. I’m not going back until I’m sure she’s okay and home.”

Our attention turned to Bea when she suddenly started to babble.

Justin teased, “Hey, you have something to say for yourself?” He smiled at her for a bit before turning to me. “Is it okay to hold her, or is it better not to?”

“They told me I could take her out. It’s okay. Just don’t toss her up into the air or anything.”

Justin slowly lifted her out of the bed and cradled her in his arms. “You scared the crap out of me, Miss Bee. You sure this wasn’t a ploy to get me home for Christmas? If so, job well-done.”

It had completely skipped my mind that tonight was Christmas Eve; we’d be spending her first Christmas in the hospital.

Tilting my head, I admired the two of them together. I’d always felt their connection but worried that Justin would never truly give into it. I felt so happy for Bea, that this wonderful guy wanted to be her father. I knew no matter what happened between Justin and me, he would always be there for her.

When Bea fell asleep in his arms, I told Justin the full story of what happened as best I could remember it.

Bea was still asleep when he returned her to the bed and asked, “When was the last time you ate, Amelia?”

“Sometime yesterday.”

“I’m gonna go get us some food and coffee while she’s sleeping.”

“That would be great.”

With Justin gone and Bea asleep, my tired mind went into overdrive. It was getting dark outside the hospital windows. Left alone with too much time to think, I started to push guilt on myself for allowing this to happen. I had one job, and that was to take care of my daughter and keep her safe; I couldn’t even do that.

When Justin returned, he was carrying a paper bag of food and a small Christmas tree that probably came from a pharmacy.

Tags: Penelope Ward Young Adult