When I walked in Nina got up from the end of the bed and came over to me and I marveled at how calm she looked despite her hair escaping her clip and a fine sheen of perspiration on her face. Sienna was now further down in the bed and looked worse than when we first got here. Chelsea went over to put a washcloth on her head and I vaguely heard what Nina had asked me, “I need you in here. She is ten centimeters dilated and is ready to push.”
My eyes widen and I looked from Nina to Sienna and then back. “You want me in here?”
She nodded, “I need you and Chelsea on each side to hold her legs so she can push. I need to be at the vaginal opening and can’t help, but you can.” Vaginal opening? Oh hell no.
“You can’t be serious. I... I can’t be in here,” I said stuttering my words.
“Why not? You were the one to drag me all the way here to help. Well then, we are going to all help. Chelsea and I can’t do it with just the two of us. I need an extra hand if something goes wrong.”
I shook my head, “I can’t.” Nervously I glanced over at the sheet draped over Sienna’s ‘vaginal opening’ and I started to stutter again, “I... I can’t!” Nina gave me a stern look of disapproval and I only hoped I could make her understand.
“This isn’t a hospital setting so you should do fine.” Nina thought it was because of my fear of hospitals and medical interventions in general. I already put her license in jeopardy so I felt like an ass trying to explain my real reason for not wanting to be in the room, but she didn’t understand the implications of me watching.
Shifting in my stance, I placed my hands in my pockets trying to figure out how to put this. “I can’t see her junk. For Christ’s sake, she is Quade’s woman.” Awareness dawned on her face but it did nothing to curb her look of frustration. She wasn’t pushing me to help but it did put her in a bind. Right then Sienna screamed out and lurched forward grabbing her stomach and Nina’s attention was drawn to her once again.
She grabbed my arm, “Well then I hope you have been working out. You, my friend, will be holding both of her legs up so she can push against you.” The immediate draining of blood from my face caused Nina to elaborate. “I need Chelsea to help be my hands if things get complicated. You will be positioned behind her and keep her knees up as far as possible. I’ll try to keep her covered as much as I can.” I swallowed and looked over at the screaming woman writhing in pain and wondered how I got myself in this situation.
Making my way over to the side of the bed, I looked down at a now quiet Sienna. She looked utterly tired and unable to move. Twisted in the sheets and sweating, she looked up at me and I realized she wouldn’t be able to help much. Nina told Chelsea to get some more towels out of the bathroom, so I was left alone to figure this out before another attack on her uterus occurred. I leaned down and tried to gracefully lift and tug at her to get her in a sitting position without causing her anymore undo pain.
Her nightgown stuck to her back with the sweat of her exertion. It crept up and I tried not to notice her butt crack and didn’t realize how easy a task it would be with the scarring all over her back. Snarled lines ran along the lowest part of her back. I even felt them farther up as I pushed her forward. They seemed to run deep and felt like a tree trunk of scarring under the thin cloth of her sleepwear. She was whipped with something to cause these marks and I thought back to the last night with Nina. How she looked when I took the bathrobe off. The red welts to crisscross her back and how the angry redness stood out. It felt the same with one exception: Nina asked for the pain and I somehow knew Sienna didn’t. Looking into Sienna’s eyes I could feel her humiliation. Whoever this woman was, she had been through some nasty shit and I couldn’t help but think that might be why Nina did it too.
I nodded at her and then tried to smile thinking of something that would break the ice, “Not exactly how I wanted to first meet you.” It put a small smile on her face.
Sienna looked back at me, “You ever do this before?”
I climbed behind her tiny body and let her lean into me, “No, have you?” She shook her head. The heat from her backside almost scorched as she settled in against me and I tried to concentrate on my job by bringing my hands to her shins and pulling them up.
“Well, I guess we will both figure this out then.” It hit me at this point what we all stood to lose. Nina her license, and Quade and Jaeger could lose someone they had grown to love. The intensity of the situation made my stomach roll. I was responsible for helping them through this, and although it scared the shit out of me, I wasn’t planning on giving up.
Nina pulled the sheet up to drape it over her legs exposing most of the lower half of Sienna to her but tried to keep the rest of it blocked to me. Sienna’s head fell lazily to the side of my chest, and she felt totally spent. How the hell was this tiny woman going to push a bowling ball out of a body so small and petite? I looked down at Nina, and although she appeared almost as sweaty and uncomfortable with the unfamiliar surroundings instead of her emergency room, she came across as confident and steady. So fucking steady and in control it amazed me. How did she perform to this level day in and day out? She took charge and accomplished more in a single shift what few others could do in a lifetime.
“Okay Sienna, you need to start pushing. The baby is crowning.” Nina returned from washing her hands and placed towels down around the hidden ‘vaginal opening’ she alluded to earlier. Sienna took in a big breath and pushed back against me but the attempt proved too weak. “Come on Sienna. You have to try harder,” Nina commanded.
Shit, I knew she was tired, but she was the only one who could pop this baby out. I didn’t think there was anything Nina could do to change that short of calling an ambulance and no one was suggesting it anymore. I had to do something.
“I didn’t take you for being all talk and no action,” I challenged.
Sienna grumbled at me, “Nice cliché.”
I shot back trying to keep her talking. Maybe if I kept her mind off all the pain she would be able to push out the little melon. Strike that, after looking at her stomach it was definitely a watermelon. Shit, I didn’t even think Quade was that big. “You like that one I’ve got more. How about ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’?”
She laughed. It was a weak laugh, but she seemed to come around. This time she had a little more fight in her. Another bigger exhausted laugh and I felt she might have some gumption to get the ball rolling. I looked down at Nina perched between her legs. She wasn’t looking at Sienna though. She was looking at me and the smile she gave me was tender. In that one second, a lot was said. No words but sentiments were exchanged. She appreciated my help almost as much as I appreciated her being here with me.
Sienna stirred on my chest. “Sorry, I am just so tired and you are being so nice.”
Nice? Christ, nice wouldn’t get the job done. Besides, she didn’t know me. She didn’t know what I did to her boyfriend, and she didn’t realize all the crap I caused. Nice? I think she had the wrong man. She needed a firmer voice. “No. I am an asshole. You have nice. Quade is a nice guy, and he is waiting for you to give him this child. Show him you can do it.”
“Next contraction I want a good push.” Nina went back to her professional demeanor again. The way she commanded a room and took charge amazed me. She might be Dr. Snap but I couldn’t imagine another more competent person when the shit hit the fan. Where most people would lose their shit, she seemed so self-assured. She met Sienna’s eyes and seemed to send her strength through that one look alone.
Sienna nodded and when I felt her body tense up with a contraction, I held her legs tight. She pushed and this time there must have been some movement because I saw both Chelsea and Nina looking down with a similar worried expression. My back was starting to protest at this point. Nina needed Sienna to be more at the end of the bed and although Chelsea helped to put pillows behind me, it wasn’t enough support to keep me upright without using most of my muscles.
“The heads out. Hold on, hold on!” Nina worked underneath the sheet as I looked up to see Chelsea’s face whiten. Something was wrong but neither of them wanted to mention it.
Sienna noticed too. “What is going on?” When they didn’t answer her voice rose to a frantic level and my heart dropped. “Please! Tell me! Please!”
Chelsea breathed out a sigh of relief and Nina calmed considerably after a flurry of activity under the sheet. Nina looked up at Sienna and I could see her considering whether to explain to her what happened. She conceded, “The cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck. I moved it, but we really need to get this baby out. Head is out Sienna. Next the shoulders. You can do it.”
The cord was wrapped around the neck? That didn’t sound good but the way Nina said it was almost as if the emergency was over, so I tried not to dwell on it. I couldn’t dwell on it. I had to help get this watermelon out.
The next two pushes were hard but it seemed the earlier scare gave Sienna more effort to get the child out. The pushes seemed good but I could tell by the look on both Nina and Chelsea’s faces they did little to change what went on below the sheet. Sienna seemed too worn out to continue but it wasn’t as if she could stop and wait until tomorrow. Nina and I exchanged a look and I could tell she was thinking the same thing. Chelsea noticed my arms wavering a little with the pressure needed to both hold Sienna’s legs and keep my back up. “How are you doing?” She asked Sienna but directed her concerned look my way. I waved her off. Compared to what Sienna was going through, I really had nothing to bitch about.
Another contraction followed by a scream and another push. This time she just flopped against me and it seemed she had no more energy left. Her head fell back and against me, and she appeared too weak to move anymore. “Just let me sleep for a little while. Just a little while, please.” The words came out in harried gasps.
Nina glanced up at me again and I saw the worry in her apt face and I didn’t like it. Shit, we all wanted more than anything to get this kid out of her, but she was worn out, through the wringer, and it gave me a sense of dread. There might be dire consequences for both Sienna and Quade’s child if things were to stall now and I couldn’t let Quade down. I owed him too much. I owed him my life because without things turning out as they did I might be dead in an alley somewhere. As much as the betrayal sucked, I had a son out there and a friend again and I sure as hell was not going to let them down.
Bringing down my head to talk directly in her ear I used the same stern voice I utilized months ago on Carissa. Keeping my voice firm and commanding, I didn’t care if I pissed her off but at this point. It might be what made her give a shit again and project this child out into the world. “Listen to me. You are going to push. You are going to push, and it will be a big one, and you will get this baby out. Quade found himself a strong woman, I can tell, so I know you have it in you. Think of Quade. Do it for Quade. He deserves to be a father again.”
If she felt offended she didn’t say but I noticed a stiffening to her back. Lifting her head off my chest she focused in front of her. Nodding her head, she grabbed onto my arms by her side. I felt her dig her fingers into my arms but I didn’t care as long as she was with me fully now and I needed to capture this momentum, “Okay Sienna, you can do it.”
With more determination than I had seen all night, she focused in front of her. When the next contraction hit, she screamed and pushed against me with a force I haven’t felt in her before. Using all my strength to keep us both upright and in a position where she could do the most good, I could almost feel a shifting in her. The movement at the bottom of the bed felt like a release. The sheet covering her lower half shifted and I could see Nina’s hands down by the bottom guiding a little head out and I held my breath.
I’ve never wanted children. I never wanted someone to rely on me that I would, in all frankness fail. The perfect life didn’t involve diapers, and driving lessons, and all the shit in between. So when I thought about what a woman, this woman, would need to remove this baby from her nether regions, it didn’t appear to be the miracle of life that people had said it would be.
Of course, until now.
She took in another deep breath and I felt another sensation of her body giving way. The baby held hostage inside her came out with a slimy, slippery, sloshing of water and fluids, and as disgusting as it was, it also proved incredible. She screamed again and I hardly noticed as I watched the large blue raisin enter this world. Unable to do anymore, Sienna fell against me in a heap.
“You did good, Sienna. You did good.” I couldn’t help myself. My euphoria of watching all this transpire made my mind numb. Chelsea looked down at the slimy kid with a tender expression on her face as she held out a towel. Tears shined in her eyes as she cupped the kid and held it while Nina worked feverishly to turn it over and rub it all over its body. I looked on in wonder as I noticed Nina was just about to touch its mouth with hers when the baby cried out. The relief on Nina’s face was tremendous and I realized Sienna may have produced life but Nina was there to facilitate it. She was truly amazing. Doing whatever she needed to save it. Going the distance and remaining calm when chaos surrounded her.
The kid seemed pissed. The shrill cry was bouncing off the walls as they worked to clean it off with one towel and then transfer it between Chelsea and Nina to wipe it down once again. I watched as they performed as a team despite only meeting each other a couple of hours ago. Each time they did another handoff I tried to find out if it was a boy or a girl. Unable to hold in my query I asked, “What is it?”
Chelsea swaddled the semi-clean infant now and had tears falling down her face as Nina took a shoestring and tied it around a rope that disappeared underneath the sheet - the umbilical cord, I presumed - and I suddenly went white again. How much more was coming out of this little woman?
“It is a girl.” Sienna started crying and trembling and I tried to put her legs down but noticed Nina shaking her head. Christ, how much more would she need to endure? Nina had a hand on the cord and kept an even pressure as she pulled but wasn’t saying anything. I realized why when she looked up. There were tears in her eyes and my heart went out to her. All of my past feelings for Nina came back to me full force. I felt more in love with her at this moment and only hoped she had at least a little something left for me. The emotion I felt ever since meeting her hadn’t been distinguished in all this time. No matter what happened between us.
Nina looked up at me and smiled and I smiled back. The heartfelt moment ended when I felt another tug and then some slimy red blob came out. I seriously thought I was going to be sick, but then they covered Sienna up once more and I wondered if she passed out. Slowly she turned and let out a little moan, and I was relieved. I worked my way out from her back and helped her to lay down on the bed. She could barely pick her head up and I hoped she could get some sleep now as she evidently deserved it.
Chelsea brought the baby and laid it beside Sienna on the bed. She opened her eyes and looked at her child. She was still looking like a raisin but now instead of blue, she appeared pinker. Chelsea remarked wistfully, “She is beautiful. Do you have a name?”
Sienna seemed to think about this and then shook her head, at least slightly, “Quade will come back and name her.”
Chelsea smiled at her, “Yes, I think that is a great plan.”
Unable to tear my eyes away, I kept thinking what a relief. Sienna and the baby were doing okay from my non-medical observation. Nina and Chelsea started cleaning up the end of the bed that looked as if they just butchered a small animal. Blood and fluid and some slimy red thing was all down there, and they went to moving and cleaning it all while I couldn’t help but look at the little sumo wrestler, thinking how the hell did it come out of that little body I was holding up?
“Thank you. You don’t seem like such an asshole to me.” Sienna looked up at me with a smirk on her face and I had to laugh. It felt good after all the tension for the last hour or so. Just the way she said it also made it seem like she didn’t mean it entirely. I could see what Quade liked about her and now after what we went through I was glad they had each other.
Sienna was a spitfire. Someone who would be good for Quade. Not the woman of his past. The one who was with him for other reasons. This one loved him, I could tell. I felt more than relief at the fact he found someone to share his life with. Shaking my head, I stated, “Yeah, you and Quade will make a great team.” Before I left her side she closed her eyes and fell into a well-deserved sleep.
I tried to get Nina’s attention. The time was getting late, but she still could get in some sleep before her next shift if we left right away. Instead, she waved me off telling me she had to examine the slimy red thing, the placenta, she called it, and she also said she needed to examine the baby after her bath. I wanted to insist but I realized Nina was in doctor mode and I wasn’t going to stop her.
Instead, Chelsea pushed me into Ryder’s bedroom to take a shower and grab some different clothes of his. We weren’t the same size, so I settled for a t-shirt and sweats. The shower was a good idea as it woke me up, although after what I just saw I didn’t think I would sleep for a year. As wound up as I was, it would do me good as I had to drive another three hours back safely.
Noticing our time slipping away, I hurried to find Nina after my shower. Making my way back out of Ryder’s room and down the hall I heard a door open and saw Jaeger step out. His hair was tousled but I didn’t think he had been sleeping. He looked up at me and I noticed the worry in his blue-green eyes. “Is... is Sienna okay?”
I tried to give him a reassuring smile. “Yeah, I think she will be.” The look of relief he gave me told me two things. He cared for Sienna, and he trusted me to tell him the truth. We could basically be strangers from the little we knew about each other, but somehow he trusted me and it felt good.
“And the baby?”
“A little girl and she looks healthy from what I can tell.”
His smile warmed me. “I have a sister? Cool.”
I nodded my head, “You have a sister.” A lot was said in those words. Although he was not a blood relative to that child there was no doubt or second thoughts about where Jaeger belonged. He had a family and I realized I would move mountains to keep it intact for him. He belonged there with them and I could have fucked all of that up for him.
As my mind wandered closer to the thought, he misinterpreted my expression. Looking a little remorseful at his choice of words I did what I could to stop the sentiment. “You have a wonderful family. It would always be what I would want for you.”
Turning to leave him I went further down the hall when I heard my name, “JJ?” I didn’t want to look back. I didn’t know what I would find and it scared me what it could be. Hope for something more? No, I couldn’t deal with it. He wasn’t mine. He would never be mine and anything more wouldn’t be good for him. Not for him and not for the family he had now. “Thank you for coming and bringing the doctor. Dad would thank you too.”
I wasn’t sure why tears stung at the back of my eyes but I harden my stance and just nodded unable to look back. Before anymore was said I made my way to the other wing of the house to get Nina.
When I couldn’t find her Chelsea informed me she was showering in the bathroom down the hall. Chelsea carried the baby and looked right at home fussing around with a child in her arms. Nina opened the door in the hall and came out wearing what I would assume were Chelsea’s clothes. Her wet hair brought back memories of the way it looked more chocolate and darker only to dry and look amazing with red highlights throughout. She saw me and smiled. I had hoped she wouldn’t be mad at me for putting her through this, and so far she wasn’t, but it was still a gamble. I owed her so much.
“Ready to go?” I needed to get her back. It was almost one in the morning and it wouldn’t be anywhere near enough time for her to get any decent amount of sleep. She touched my arm, “I just want to check on Sienna and the baby one more time.” I nodded. I didn’t like it but I couldn’t make her leave. Not with what she had at stake.
In the distance I heard a phone ringing, “That is my phone in Sienna’s room. Here.” Chelsea gave Nina the baby and raced down into Sienna’s room. Nina looked at the baby and smiled a truly radiant smile. It wasn’t the first time tonight I was in awe of this strong confident woman. I missed her over the last month, but really, I was never in her league.
My thoughts were interrupted when we heard Sienna crying. Nina gave me a look of concern as we both hurried to her room. Sienna sat up by the head of the bed with her hands up covering her face and wailed a heart-wrenching cry. Chelsea held the phone by her ear talking but then hung up and went to Sienna wrapping an arm around her. Chelsea looked up at us to explain, “That was Quade. All he said was that it was okay to take Sienna to the hospital now. That it was over. He couldn’t say more.”
I didn’t have a full understanding of what went on but what I pieced together led me to believe this woman would never need to worry about another man hurting her ever again. It made me nervous for Quade, but I was grateful that Sienna and both of his kids were safe.
“Call an ambulance. Tell them that she had given birth and that the child is already born, so they know to bring an incubator and someone with an obstetric background.” Chelsea nodded at Nina and came over to give us a quick goodbye.
“Nina, we need to go.” I didn’t want her involved. If she were to stay here she would need to explain why they didn’t go to the hospital and implicate her in this mess. I already put her at risk, and she seemed to understand my reasoning and so did Chelsea.
“I will wait until you leave. Thank you for everything.”
Chelsea looked between the both of us and gave me a hug first. I didn’t flinch like usual. Chelsea had always been warm and open and I guess I was finally excepting her unreserved affection. She hugged Nina next and took the baby from her. “Go. I got this.” Nina smiled and peeked in quickly at Sienna still sobbing in the bed. It must have been hard for her all this time and the crying felt more like a weight being lifted off her.
“Can you call JJ and give him an update? I would like to know she is doing well.” Chelsea smiled and nodded as we walked out the door.
Leaving the house, I noticed the bodyguard by the door hoping his job just got easier, but I said nothing to him besides letting him know Chelsea called for an ambulance. He nodded and left to discuss the details with Chelsea as we made our way to the car.
Once at the car, Nina placed her arm on mine to stop me. “Nina, we need to leave. We’ve got to get out of here before the ambulance gets here and as it is, you won’t be getting enough sleep.”
Before I finished talking she grabbed onto my neck and pulled me down to shock me with a kiss. It wasn’t about passion. The kiss was more tender and I couldn’t help but soften to her. There was a need there. One I had been trying to stifle all damn night. If I was honest, that need had been growing since I left her six weeks ago.
She broke away and I saw a sheen in her eyes. “What was that for?”
Nina smiled and I brought my hands up to hold her arms and keep her close to me. I had wanted this for too long for it to end yet. “For bringing me here. For letting me help her.” More confused than ever, I couldn’t imagine the bind I put her in. She risked her whole license and I threw her into a dangerous situation, and she was thanking me?
“You know how you said your guitar was bittersweet for you? Well, medicine ended up being the same for me. Working in the emergency department I have seen the worst of the worst. I struggled with why I even went into medicine in the first place. All the joys of helping people have been overshadowed by pettiness and entitlement, as well as working in a system too broken to offer hope to anyone impoverished anymore. Tonight, I helped that woman. We helped her, and it reminded me of why I went into healthcare. I got back some of the feeling of accomplishment I felt I lost so long ago.” I realized the night she stitched me up she had a tough job but I had no idea she felt so disillusioned about something she obviously practiced with such ease.
“No more talk. You need to sleep.” I let go unwillingly, and she walked over to the passenger side of my car opening the door and getting in. I took a deep breath and entered my side wondering what this all meant.
Starting the car and driving away from the house, I watched her settle down in the seat with it reclined. It would kill me not to talk to her about what just happened but I refused to interrupt her sleep. Even if she slept the whole ride back she would be tired before her next twelve-hour shift at the hospital, a shift she normally disliked already. I felt guilty but some of that guilt was washed away by what she said.
Nina slumbered beside me almost the whole ride and I kept wondering about the kiss. What did it mean? Could I still have a chance with her? Then I thought of Charlie. Did she still want her as well? I would never be able to share her.
Before the night of the botched threesome, I would have done anything to keep Nina. I loved her but I realized now what love means. Love means doing the best for the other person regardless of how it could affect you. Charlie was a bitch and the farthest thing from what Nina needed. Nina should never be struck to cause her pain, and I would never be able to produce that type of misguided offerings even if it meant I could keep her by me forever.
I may never be the person Nina needed or deserved but I wholeheartedly felt Charlie would never be that person as well, and needed to convince Nina of it. My thoughts went back to my drug addiction meetings. They taught me I only had control over my own self. I couldn’t control Nina’s feelings for me or Charlie. I might not be able to change Nina’s mind but if I didn’t try I would be left in limbo, wondering about what might have been.
We shared something between us. I loved her for Christ’s sake. My love for her hadn’t diminished since that night. It slapped me in the face when I saw her at the hospital and had grown tenfold after what we just went through.
Looking over at Nina I couldn’t help but smile. She was a self-proclaimed insomniac like myself but the way her breathing took on a steady rise and fall I could tell she drifted off to sleep rather easily. It didn’t surprise me. We both slept better with each other. I just hoped there were more sleep-filled nights in our future.