Evidence of Things Hoped For
Fitz drew in a couple of deep breaths to calm himself before dialing the number.
"Officer Ralston," said the gruff voice at the other end of the line.
"Hello, Officer Ralston, this is Fitzgerald Grant. You were called to my house a couple of months ago for a disturbance. Before that you pulled over my wife and me…umm—" Fitz said, searching for the way to preface this request.
"Mr. Fitzgerald Grant, husband of the school teacher with a different last name and whose family I have some encounter with every 30 or 40 days?" he said abruptly, his voice laced with humor. "What can I do you for you today?"
Fitz didn't like the officer's mocking tone. He knew better than anyone how tumultuous their life had been in the last year, but it was not for public consumption or scrutiny. He pushed aside his pride since there were more pressing matters to attend to. "Well, Officer...I need your help. My wife, Olivia, is missing. She's pregnant and due any day now. Today she left the house without her cell phone. I checked her phone, and I think she is going to meet my…ex…" Fitz said, pausing in anticipation of questions from the officer. He wondered if he should go into detail about Mellie's mental history or her previous attempts to get him arrested.
"And their meeting together…alone is..." Officer Ralston said.
"Dangerous. My ex-wife is totally unpredictable. Olivia wouldn't have any reason to visit her. She wouldn't go without telling someone, but I have this text message that confirms it. I am headed there now, and I know I need someone…law enforcement...to be there. Could you meet me there...at her house?" Fitz said in a rush.
"Sure Mr. Grant. I'm on duty. What's the address?"
Fitz felt a surge of relief. He gave him the street address.
Olivia bit her bottom lip in response to the wide swath of tightness across her belly. She had become accustomed to these pangs for the last couple of weeks. The contractions used to make her nervous until she read that they were commonplace. These pains, the ones she'd been experiencing since yesterday, were different. Last night they had contributed to her normal discomfort. They were beginning to last longer, and she had to stop whatever she was doing to let it pass. Listening to Mellie's long diatribe was becoming more difficult by the minute. Mellie's text message had been a complete surprise today. She'd read it multiple times.
We have to talk about Karen. She is hurting. I appreciate all you've done for her. I want to work with you and Fitz to help her.
Olivia had hyperfocused on, 'She's hurting.' Those feelings of guilt engulfed her. All she could think about was what had happened with Gerry and Savannah. Without a second thought, she'd texted back her willingness to meet with Mellie. Enroute she reached for her cell phone to call GG who was walking Rolfo. That's when she had realized the phone was still on the credenza. She had rolled her eyes at her oversight and rubbed her belly. "Little Grant, your Mommy is losing her mind," she had said. At that moment, she realized how angry Fitz would be if he knew where she was headed alone. She shrugged her shoulders and decided to worry about that later.
"…so you can see why I am concerned about Karen's feelings. There is nothing wrong with her wanting to plan a trip to visit her boyfriend," Mellie said.
Olivia took a deep breath and rubbed her stomach in an attempt to will her body to stop the contractions so she could finish this conversation and get home. "Mellie, I'm less concerned about Karen's feelings," Olivia said. It was becoming clear that Mellie was simply advocating for Karen to get her way. "Do you know about her grades and her lying? She is distracted by her relationship with Ethan. I thought you wanted to talk about helping her. We all have to hold her responsible. You have to st-stop working against us by taking her side when she calls you. Visiting Ethan is out of the question n-n-now. Her education is more im…impor…" Olivia said through the pang.
Mellie's slight scowl softened into concern. "Are you okay?" she said.
For the first time since she arrived, Olivia felt fear. Ironically, Mellie's concerned expression elicited that fear. She remembered the lengths Mellie had gone to, harming her own body so violently, to hurt Fitz. If she could do that to herself, what would she do to Olivia who was now carrying his child? Olivia saw Mellie's concern as an acknowledgement of her own vulnerability, being here with Mellie alone. "I'm…I'm fine. Karen is having some growing pai-pains, but we can't coddle her. We have to hold her accountable, lovingly. I've seen her do better," Olivia said.
Millie was scowling again. "You've seen her do better! You've barely been with Fitz a year. I'm her mother. Sleeping with Fitz doesn't give you the right to take my place," Mellie retorted icily.
Olivia's fear turned to anger. She hated the way Mellie cast her relationship and now marriage to Fitz, always reducing it to sex. It was disrespectful and hateful in just the way Mellie intended. Olivia also hated it because it felt racist, as if Fitz would only want her, a black woman, for sex. She let her anger fuel her response: "But this ring I wear says, I'm her stepmother. By all accounts, since I've been in her life, I have been her mother. I am present for her soccer games, parent/teacher conferences, open houses…she cried on my shoulder when she lost her virginity. I took her to have her first pelvic exam, taught her how to count the days of her menstrual cycle, convinced her that it was okay for one of her breasts to be slightly bigger than the other…Where were you, both before and, after I showed up! I am Fitz's wife and Karen's stepmother. What are you, Mellie? Who are you in this scenario?" Olivia's anger served to mask her pain until she stopped speaking. Then it radiated through her abdomen.
"You really enjoy going for the jugular, Olivia. Those were low blows. I have not been a perfect mother, but I love Gerry and Karen more than you'll ever know. All I know is that she is hurting. She is hurt over the divorce. Hurt that her mother and father are no longer together. She told me that when we last talked. She wants to come and live with me. There's nothing you can do to stop that!" Mellie argued.
Olivia couldn't help but laugh until she felt another shard of pain. When it subsided, she stood slowly and gathered her purse. "Mellie, I came here today because I thought you wanted to work together to help Karen. All you want to do is give her what she wants. Her desire to move out is just a ploy to get what she wants. But now I think it might be a good idea for her to stay with you for a while. I don't know how Fitz feels about it since Karen has been in a perpetual funk since August and won't really talk to us. I think being with you might be exactly what she needs. I'm sure you and Fitz will discuss this further. That's what I think. It's probably best for you to contact Fitz and Fitz only about Karen from now on," Olivia said.
She turned to leave thankful she could make an exit before she felt another contraction. As soon as she returned home, she planned to call the doctor. Mellie's voice rang out behind her.
"I'm surprised you came, Olivia. You and Fitz seem so skittish around me since our little disagreement back in February," she said. "For what it's worth, thank you for caring about Karen so much."
Olivia stood at the door, her back to Mellie. She shook her head. Only Mellie would purposely assault herself, try to pin it on Fitz, and call that a 'little disagreement'. She turned to face Mellie who was walking to her.
"I love Karen, Mel-Mellie," Olivia said with a wince.
Mellie frowned. "Olivia, I think you might be in labor."
The pounding on the door startled both of them.
"Who is…?" Mellie asked, walking to the window and pulling back the curtain. "So let me guess," she said, "Fitz didn't know you were coming or he told you not to come and you came anyway." Mellie didn't wait for an answer. She pulled open the door. Fitz was there looking ready to rescue Olivia flanked by Officer Ralston. "Well, look who the law dragged in," Mellie said lazily, looking from Fitz to the Officer. "You brought the police, Fitz? A major overreach."
Fitz pushed past Mellie and walked to Olivia. "Olivia, are you okay?" he asked, grasping her shoulders, inspecting her for signs of harm.
Olivia felt relieved to see him. She thought about her cell phone, realizing that it must have revealed her location. "You were snooping through my cell phone again. I'm fine…" she said just before she bent over in pain, betraying her words.
Fitz frowned. "Livy, what's wrong?" he said, wide-eyed.
"Stop acting like this is your first time, Fitz. She's probably in labor. It'll probably be hours before she gives birth. Can I get you all something to drink? Fitz? Officer um…?" Mellie said.
Fitz ignored Mellie, but he responded to her words. "Labor? But…Granny was right" he said.
"I'm not sure I'm in labor. I've been having Braxton Hicks for weeks now. That's what I'm having now. I think I'm just tired. I was just leaving," Olivia said. She gave Mellie a quick glance before looking at Officer Ralston. "I won't even ask why you are here officer. You must think we are crazy."
"Ma'am, I'm here to protect and serve," he said with a nod. "I'll be outside if you need me." He turned and walked to his police car.
"There's nothing here she needs to be protected from. We were just having a conversation. Weren't we Olivia?" said Mellie.
As if on cue, Olivia moaned in pain.
"Can you walk to the car? I can carry you," Fitz said.
"I can walk," she said, showing him by walking through the door.
"Honey, I think we should call the doctor now," Fitz suggested.
Olivia nodded in agreement while looking through her purse for the keys. "I hope you don't think I'm going to let you drive, Liv," Fitz said.
"I'm not going to argue with you, Fitz, but my car…we can't leave it—" Olivia said.
Officer Ralston walked to them. "Well, folks I have to go. Just received a call. Mr. Grant, call me if you need me. Let me know if she has the baby, too," he said. "Always a pleasure, Mrs. Grant." He walked to his car and left.
"So we have your own personal law enforcement now?" Olivia asked, holding on to his arms as he helped her into the car.
"I sure need something to help me keep you safe from the Jakes, Savannahs, and Mellie's of the world since you won't listen to me," he said, clicking the seatbelt over her.
"How far apart are your contractions? We probably should start keeping track," he said as they drove away. Olivia's eyes lingered on the driveway as they drove away. She could see Mellie looking out the window.
"I don't like leaving my car here, honey. These probably aren't the real contractions. Resting was not really been on my agenda today so I'm paying for it now. I could have driven slowly," she said. In contrast to her words, Olivia squeezed her eyes shut against the next brief wave of pain.
Fitz grabbed her hand. "Oh, Liv, these pains seem to be more than Braxton Hicks. You're due any day now. It makes sense that you are in labor. Stop denying it," he said, speeding through a yellow light.
Olivia didn't respond at first. She knew he was right. As much as she was ready to have her body back, she didn't want to give birth today. She needed more time to prepare. Could she really be a good mother? Motherhood was an altogether different proposition than being a teacher. That she could do. But could she be a mother, loving and nurturing her child unconditionally, when she'd never felt that kind of love from her own mother? These thoughts had been buried deep within her, but now they were welling up in direct proportion to her due date.
"Are you okay, Livy?" Fitz asked, squeezing her hand, "We'll talk about why you were at Mellie's later. I hope you aren't worrying about that. I have a feeling Little Grant is about to make an appearance. I can't wait to meet him."
Olivia smiled at him feeling encouraged by his words. "Me either."
When they pulled into the driveway and Fitz helped her out of the car, Olivia felt warm liquid flow down her legs. "Oh damn, I think my water broke!" she said.
"How's that?" Fitz asked, kneading Olivia's lower back as she leaned over the hospital bed.
Olivia didn't answer him. She turned her head away from him and closed her eyes.
"Honey, talk to me. Maybe we should get the epidural. I know you wanted to do this drug free, but like the nurse said, this will probably be a long labor. You are barely one centimeter dilated and it's been 5 hours already," Fitz said softly in her ear. He rubbed her brow and kissed her cheek.
"There's no 'we' getting the epidural. You don't have something pushing against your private parts. No, this is your fault. I shouldn't be at the hospital. Why did you bring me here so early?" Olivia asked between breaths.
Fitz swallowed visibly not wanting to anger her even if what she said was nonsensical. He spoke slowly. "Honey, you said your water broke, so I brought you to the hospital, remember?"
"Yes, but I just peed in my damn pants. My water didn't break. You should have investigated further instead of jumping the damn gun!" Olivia said. "Now I'm here when I could be at home getting some work done!"
Fitz wondered how he could have investigated further. He raised his eyebrows at her third use of, 'damn,' today. He knew she was in pain. "I'm sorry. I should have investigated."
There was a knock on the door. Before they could respond, FJ, followed by Elise, Granny, Lauren, Sybil, and Karen entered the room.
"Darlin', how are you doing? Ready to push Little Grant into the world? I just hope his head isn't as big as Fitz's was," FJ piped in.
"FJ, come on, don't scare her," said Elise. "But Liv, he is right, I can speak from experience."
"Olivia, don't listen to my parents," Sybil offered. "Is there anything we can get you before the nurses throw us out?"
"Why aren't you in the bed?" Granny asked.
"Are my mom and dad here yet?" Olivia said, ignoring everyone but Fitz. She loved Fitz's family, but it was too many of them fussing over her. She didn't have the patience to deal with them now.
"Honey, I called them. They told me to call them back when you get closer. Your mom has a class or something," Fitz said.
Olivia looked disappointed.
"Abby, Huck, and Harrison are here, though," Lauren added.
Olivia smiled. "I think I want to walk down to the waiting room. Fitz, get my robe please."
"I don't think that is a good idea. You need to be laying down," said Granny with a frown.
"GG, I need to walk. It hurts more when I'm laying down," Olivia said. "I'll go downstairs and see my friends."
"How's Quinn?" Olivia asked. She walked with Abby, Harrison, and up and down the hallway outside of the waiting room. Fitz was standing by the door on the phone with Gerry and keeping his eye on Olivia.
"She's totally stressed. You know how that first year of teaching is, Liv. It's like drinking from a fire hose nonstop. She'll be fine. We are helping her out a lot. I think Mr. Jordan has a crush on her. He's doing well with your class," Abby said.
"That's good." Olivia said.
"So are all the Grants going to be in the room with you? It's a good thing you like Fitz's family. There are so many of them, and they are always around, Liv. How do you do it?" Abby asked.
"Mrs. Grant, from this point on, you cannot leave your room. You must stay in the bed so that we can monitor your contractions," instructed Chastity, the nurse assigned to her.
"The irony of your name is not lost on me. How is it to have that name and work as a labor and delivery nurse?" Olivia asked as Chastity fastened the monitor on her belly.
"Actually, guys use it mostly in their pick up lines. People rarely mention it here. I need to check you now." Chastity said, sliding on a latex glove.
"Great. You've made progress…2 centimeters," Chastity said with a smile. "Mr. Grant, you'll be able to see the contractions before she feels them. Mrs. Grant, would you like the epidural? We have to give you fluid before so I need to know."
"Yes," Fitz said.
"No," Olivia said.
Chastity smiled at their disagreement. "You'll have another opportunity to request it, but know that there's a point at which we have to proceed without it. If you change your mind and decide to request after that point, we won't be able to administer it. I'll leave you two. Oh, and you can only have two other people in this room during the delivery," Chastity explained before she left.
"How about Karen and GG? I wish Sierra was here, but I know she can't get away," Olivia said.
"I am okay with whatever you want as long as I'm here," Fitz said, holding her hand.
"Honey, I'm sorry for being such a maniac this last month. You must think I'm losing my mind. It's just that I'm scared. Can I be a good mother? I know I'm a good teacher, but I get to send those kids home."
"You are already a good mother…Karen and Gerry…remember them?" Fitz got a look at the monitor and saw that a contraction was coming.
"Let's breathe now. A contraction is coming, baby."
"Big or small?"
He coached her threw it using the breathing techniques they'd learned from a YouTube Lamaze channel. They hadn't been able to take a full-fledged class. Their eyes focused on each other until it passed.
"Karen hates me right now. I'm responsible for Gerry practically being molested by my sister. Does that qualify me as mother of the year? I think not. You're biased anyway. One of the many reasons, I love you."
"Stop doubting yourself. Let's just hope, Little Grant skips the teen…here's another one, honey…breathe."
"Whew," Olivia breathed after it passed. "That really hurt."
The room was buzzing with excitement for a while. "Are you ready to push Mrs. Grant?" the doctor asked. Olivia could only nod in the affirmative. She was extremely tired from withstanding all the hard contractions. She had been too stubborn to get the epidural. They had long since reached the point of no return.
Karen was on one side of the bed holding her hand. Fitz was on the other. Granny and the nurse held her legs up while the doctor and other nurse were at the foot of the bed.
"Okay, push now," the doctor instructed.
Olivia bore down and pushed as hard as she could while wailing from the pain.
"Okay, that was good. You can stop now," the doctor instructed.
Olivia fell back on the bed. Fitz rubbed her brow. "You're doing great, Livy."
They repeated this cycle several times. "I can't push anymore," Olivia breathed faintly.
"Doctor, something is wrong. She's getting pale," Fitz noted.
"The baby's vitals are dropping. He's not advancing down the birth canal. Alert the OR. We need to prep for surgery," the doctor instructed. The nurses worked with speedy precision. They pushed Karen and GG out of the room. One called the OR. The other covered Olivia and began unlocking the bed.
Karen and GG watched as the OR doors closed behind Fitz and Olivia.
Mr. Grant, your job is simple. Stay on the head side of the curtain. Keep Mrs. Grant calm. Do not look over here. We will bring the baby to you, okay?"
Fitz shook his head in agreement. The procedure began. He and Olivia could only hear the clink of metal and the beeps of the machines.
"Fitz, this has been the longest day ever. I'm sorry for making you move all those boxes last night," Olivia said drowsily.
"No, honey. You were obviously right. Little Grant is almost here so we needed to unclutter the garage. That's where he'll be sleeping, right?" Fitz joked.
Olivia chuckled a little. "This feels nice…being numb like this. What are they doing, Fitz? Look over there."
"I can't honey. The doctor instructed me to stay on this side of the curtain."
Olivia's eyes welled up with tears. "I just want to hear him cry."
At that moment she got her wish when an insistent little wail rang out. Both Olivia's and Fitz's eyes widened.
"That's our baby," he said.
Olivia couldn't say anything. She wept.
"It's a boy, born 1:16 am on November 5. He's coming your way as soon as we get him cleaned up and weighed," the doctor said.
"Mr. Grant, you can come over and cut the cord and watch him get ready to see his meet his mother," Chastity instructed.
"You did well, Livy," Fitz said, kissing her tear stained cheeks.
"Oh my God, he's so beautiful," Fitz said. He watched the nurse do the initial tests.
"Weight is 9 lbs, 2 oz. Length is 22 inches," the nurse cataloged. "Apgar score is 9." The nurse swaddled the baby and handed him to Fitz. Fitz held him close to his heart.
"Wow, you are already head of the class with such a high score. Just like your mom," Fitz whispered.
"Fitz, please bring him to me," Olivia said,
Olivia's breath caught when she saw him. She couldn't sit up. Fitz laid him on her chest so she could get a close look. Olivia took him all him. He was pink and his head was filled with dark black curls. At that moment, his eyelids opened to reveal the most striking eyes. One was deep blue and the other deep grey. They couldn't speak as they gazed from each other to the baby, who seemed just as enthralled as they were.
"Mr. and Mrs. Grant, we have to get Mrs. Grant to recovery and the baby down to the nursery. Mr. Grant, you can come with the baby. We will bring the baby to nurse soon," the nurse promised.
Fitz leaned over and kissed Olivia deeply. "We'll see you soon."
"Ok," she said.