The night turned into day quickly, and with it brought Sofia’s insistence that because it was the holidays it was time to put up the decorations- thus, our living room and hallways looked, in Poppy’s words, ‘like Christmas throw up’. Decorations were scattered everywhere and the glitter was all over the place and I didn’t look forward to having to clean it up. Tinsel hung from the doorframes and the actual Christmas tree was hardly visible under the sea of baubles and assorted decorations.
“I think Santa will definitely remember to stop here.” Poppy commented to Sofia as they stood back to admire the tree. Poppy had definitely put on the whole Christmas act for Sofia- she’d actually helped her write a letter to Santa asking him to keep the reindeer on the roof because Sofia was scared of them coming into her room.
“You think so?”
“I sure do. How many days is it now?”
“Ten!” Sofia exclaimed, starting to jump up and down. Her excitement and hyperactivity had certainly boosted over the last few days, and it was uncommon to have her not bouncing around and singing one of the carols she’d learned at preschool. You’d think after a while that she’d eventually just run out of energy but no, she just kept jumping about like she’d just slept for hours.
“Hey Sof, why don’t you get your Christmas colouring book and have some quiet time?” I suggested to her. I loved her hyper attitude, she definitely got it from me, but Callie was coming in from a night shift soon and although she loved Sof, I didn’t imagine that she’d exactly be up for dancing and singing. Plus, as soon as Callie got in I was headed out to work. Today I was doing a rare surgery on a seven year old named Jamie.
“So any cool stuff today?” Poppy asked me once Sofia had cheered in excitement and ran through to get the colouring book.
“A Fundoplication on a seven year old with GRD.” I replied casually.
“And this is the part where I pretend to know what you’re even talking about?” She asked me with raised eyebrows. I laughed as I realised that she had no idea what I was talking about.
“Basically I’m going to sew the upper curve of his stomach to his oesophagus to help his acid reflux.” I simplified.
“That’s so cool!”
“It is, isn’t it?”
While we were waiting for Sof to come back I’d started reorganising all of the photos on the mantelpiece because they were all hidden under the decorations, and Poppy joined me.
“Who’s this?” She asked as she held up one that showed Mark and Callie looking over baby Sofia’s incubator in the NICU. I smiled as I remembered that being taken- I was the one behind the camera. We’d just been told that she could be discharged and I hadn’t been able to resist taking the picture.
“That’s Mark Sloan. Remember, Sof’s dad?”
“Yeah. Where is he now?”
How do I tell her this one without getting into all the details? There was no way.
“So I had my leg amputated. In a plane crash, remember?” I asked her to see if she remembered me telling her.
“Well, it’s story time again.” I laughed. “You’re definitely getting a rundown of the family history as of lately. So basically Mark and I, along with four other doctors were all flying to Boise to help with a conjoined twins surgery, and about halfway there the back of the plane flew off, and we were out in the woods for four days straight. I had an open femur fracture which caused the amputation. Mark had heart problems and they had to do a procedure in the field. We got back and about two months later he died when we pulled the plug. The love of his life, although he didn’t know it until it happened, also died out there.”
I always hated repeating this story. During the first year after the crash and I had some PTSD Callie had forced me to go see someone, and having to go over and over it had been the hardest thing about it, aside from the leg. It had honestly seemed like it had made everything worse for so long but gradually I could see it helping. But I still hated talking about it.
“Oh my God…” She trailed off, looking down at the picture.
“But, let’s not talk about it. We’re being happy today!” I encouraged as Sof came running through with multiple colouring books and a bag of crayons.
“Poppy, will you pleeeeeaseeeee colour with me?” She asked sweetly, using the puppy eyes that I’d taught her to use on Callie.
“Sure I will!”
“Heeeeeeellooooooo!” I sang as I approached Teddy in the cafeteria, where she was reading through some charts while she picked at a very dull and leafy looking salad.
“Well someone’s overly cheery today.” She remarked as she flipped the chart shut and sat up straighter.
“It’s Christmas! You should be excited.” I exclaimed.
“I am. Just today has been so long and I’ve barely had a chance to think. Apparently today is ‘let’s have serious problems with our hearts!’ day.” She explained sarcastically and I had to laugh that.
“Why don’t you come over tonight, have some wine or something?” I suggested. “Nothing much, because Sof will be there, but she loves you. And you can meet Poppy too!”
She smiled gratefully. “That sounds great. I can’t promise a time, but I should say around seven thirty.” She told me. “How’s it going with Poppy, anyway?”
“I think we’re going to adopt her.” I revealed and she gasped. “I was really worried in case she wanted to go back to her parents, but they basically showed up at her school, gave her an ultimatum and told her that she wasn’t their daughter.”
“I think you’re making a good decision.” She agreed, taking a sip of her water. “It’s really weird, but it’s great.”
“I know. Like, we only met her a month ago and now we’re going to adopt her. It’s crazy.” I sighed.
“And Sofia likes her?”
“Loves her.” I corrected. “She hangs on to her every word, and follows her everywhere.”
Just then Teddy’s pager started going off and she made the fact that she wasn’t happy with this clear as she groaned loudly. She stood up, picking up her chart and binning her food. “I’ll see you later.” She grumbled before stalking off. I waited until she was out of earshot before I laughed to myself. Teddy never failed to make me laugh.
Half an hour later found me in my office making my way slowly through charts and scans, and I was glad to look over ten year old Emery’s ones and see that she could be discharged if her stats remained like this. It was hard to do this job sometimes because of the sick children, and the bad outcomes always hit me hard, but the feeling that you get when you can make them smile and discharge them was the best. It made it worth it.
At some point my thoughts had drifted off, and I found myself thinking about things like if penguins have knees or not. My daydreams were cut off, however, by a knock on the door, followed by it opening to reveal three of my favourite people in the world.
“Hey guys!” I exclaimed, standing up from my desk and hugging them all. I picked Sofia up an perched her on my waist and gave Callie a peck on the lips, then wrapped my other arm around Poppy. “What are you all doing here?”
“We just thought we’d visit you.” Callie said.
“Well I’m glad.” I smiled. “It’s been pretty slow around here. Mostly ER stuff, since kids love to play out in the snow, and the ever so lovely and slippery ice that causes many an injury. I was just doing charting.” I informed her, gesturing to the piles of paperwork scattered all over my desk. My office was a typical peds surgeon office- painted in a pale sunshine yellow with different murals painted on, along with cards that patients and parents have given me over the years. I also had a photo of Callie and I on our wedding day, and one of Callie and Sofia on the swings at the playground.
I indicated for them to sit on the couch in the corner and we did so, leaning back into the cushions. “Teddy’s going to come over at around 7:30 tonight.” I told Callie. “She’s having a super stressful day so I thought she could do with a glass of wine.”
She nodded. “That’s great, I’ve not seen her in a while.”
“Teddy?” Poppy asked.
“My best friend, she works here. She’s head of Cardio.”
“You’ll like her.” I assured. “She’s quite excited to meet you.”
As excited as Teddy was to meet Poppy, nine o’clock that night rolled around and Teddy had fallen asleep on the couch. The position she was lying in didn’t look particularly comfortable, and the couch wasn’t the best place to sleep, but she had been so tired so I didn’t want to wake her. Poppy, Callie and I just sat on the couch having light conversations, and it was decided that Grace and Olivia were going to come round for a while tomorrow.
“Are you sure it’s okay?” She asked again as we stood up to go to bed.
“Relax.” I laughed. “You live here, remember? And if we’re adopting you then we’ll be seeing a lot more of them around, I’m guessing.”
“Good point.” She realised. “Okay, I’ll see you guys in the morning!”
“Remember to be quiet just in case Teddy’s still sleeping when you get up.” Callie reminded her as we hugged her goodnight.
“I will, have a good sleep!” She said before closing the door to her room.
“This past month has been so crazy.” I said to Callie as we climbed into bed. I faced my back to her and she wrapped her arms around me and held me close. I held her hands in mine and took in her warm smell of coconut, thanks to the shampoo she used.
“When have our lives ever been not crazy?” She replied.
“Good point.” I laughed. “Just sometimes it seems to catch up with me.”
“I know what you mean.”
I turned round to look at her, taking in her stunning Latina features that never failed to blow me away. I found myself having a mushy moment inside as I thought about how much I loved her.
“I love you.” I said simply, kissing her softly.
“So sickeningly sweet.” She commented. “I love you too.”