Jade lay in a hospital bed in the Women’s Health and Labor wing of New Bergen Regional Medical Center. Murdock sat in a chair by the window, fighting with the window blinds to try and get them low enough to dim the afternoon sun. One end down while the other end was stuck, the blinds fanned out, crooked and broken.
Frustrated, Murdock stood up and looked out the window. “I should have taken you to the university hospital in Greenville,” he sighed.
“It’ll be fine,” Jade assured him. “I am not nearly as needy as I--Oh!”
“Are you okay?” Murdock asked, quickly turning around and going to her side, taking her hand.
“Yeah…,” she replied, wincing. “Yeah. They’re getting closer together.”
“I’ll make sure we tell the nurse when she comes in.”
“They probably already know. They have monitors on me.”
“True. I’ve never done this before you know…”
Someone knocked on the door. “See?” Jade chuckled.
A woman came in wearing dark, purple scrubs, getting a dollop of hand sanitizer and rubbing her hands with it. “There’s a man in the waiting room named Ronnie Baxter. He’d like to come in and visit.”
“Baxter,” Murdock said, taking a moment for the name to register in his memory. “Yeah, you can send him in.”
“I wonder what’s going on,” Jade said, puzzled. “Zachary said he didn’t have power of them anymore.”
“I don’t know.”
The nurse left the door cracked when she left so when a knock came on the door, it opened a bit more. A man poked his head inside. “Jade?”
“Baxter, come on in,” Jade said, waving him in.
“Hey… uh… How’s it going? This is weird.”
“We’re doing good. What’s weird?”
“Me being here. The tattoo’s back on my freaking wrist and a voice in my head… I’m pretty sure it was Mr. Di Corvo’s… he told me to come here.”
“That is… odd,” Murdock said, curious.
“So… are you having a baby or what? Is this guy,” Baxter pointed toward Murdock, “the father?”
“Yes, we’re having a baby. And Zachary is the father, actually.”
“Mr. Di Corv--” Jade nodded slowly. “Holy…”
“If that isn’t the definition of irony,” Murdock quipped. “Baxter… has anyone else…”
“I haven’t seen anyone else from P.O.E. in six months. But I guess it would be reasonable to assume they might show up.”
“Oh!” Jade shouted in pain. “Get the nurse.”
“I am NOT staying at the campground, in a hotel or anywhere else!” Mrs. Kasey exclaimed, fuming at her son as they stood outside the lobby of Craven Memorial Hospital. “This baby is coming tonight. I can feel it. And I will be here when he does.”
“Or she,” Stew pointed out.
“You know what I mean. And why could we not find find out whether it’s going to be a boy or a girl? You know how I like to be prepared and how can I prepare…”
“Mom…,” Stew took her by the shoulders and looked her in the eyes. “We’ll be fine.” He pulled her close and wrapped his arms around her. She relaxed and did the same.
“Alex, here,” Mr. Kasey said as he turned a wheelchair around to face Alex as she stepped out of the van, “Your chariot has arrived.”
“Thank you,” Alex said, smiling as she stepped out of the van, turned around and sat down in the chair. “I’m worn out but I’m really excited,” she continued, pulling a blanket over her legs.
“We all are, Honey,” James replied, gently rolling the wheelchair across the pavement through the sliding doors of the lobby, entourage in tow.
Linda Swanson had been the Public Relations Liaison for Craven Memorial for 18 years and this was the largest group of people she had ever had to usher in to the Labor and Delivery waiting room. Stew and Alex had been brought to a delivery room, leaving eleven others, plus the two Linda couldn’t see, behind. The most she had ever handled previously was nine.
“Okay,” Tófa announced as everyone else found a comfortable spot to settle down. “Marie, do you want to come with me and find the coffeeshop? Conjured coffee is a good show but… nothing like the real thing.”
“I totally agree,” Marie returned as she stood back up. “Who else needs coffee?”
Jade screamed as nurses supported her on each side and encouraged her to breathe and keep pushing. Murdock stood beside her at the head of the bed, trying not to pass out.
“I must be totally mental to stay in here,” Murdock said, having to remember to breathe himself.
“Don’t you leave me,” Jade shouted in between pushes.
“Oh, it’s too late f’tha’. Jammy for you, I’m in it for the long of it.”
“One more big push,” the lead nurse told her, “and we’re going to let you rest for a little bit. Okay?”
Without further prodding, Jade pushed and screamed harder than she had up to that point. A moment later, she was lying back on the bed, beads of sweat appearing on her forehead and then trickling down her temple. Murdock grabbed a tissue from the bedside table and wiped the tears out of her ears.
“Thank you for being here,” Jade whispered. “I don’t know what I would do if I had to do this alone.”
“You’re stronger than you think, Ms. Thorneheart. As powerful as Zachary is, he needs you. He’ll never admit it. But he does.”
“Alright, Sweetie,” the lead nurse rejoined, “you ready to have this baby?”
“Yes I am.”
“You got a great support system behind you.”
“I do. Thank you..”
“Did you say why the father couldn’t be here?”
“He’s overseas,” Jade replied. “He’s in the army.”
“Well, thank him for his service for me. I’m going to let the doctor know we’re ready to go. Okay?”
“This baby’s coming quicker than we thought,” the head nurse proclaimed. “Another thirty minutes or so and you’ll be parents.”
Stew’s jaw grew slack and he stared for a moment upon hearing that word--parents. “Alex. We’re going to be parents.”
“I am painfully aware, Stewart. Now, you’re going to give me your hand and I’m going to squeeze it,” she returned calmly.
“I’m sorry, Babe. You’re doing great. We’re almost there.”
Alec screamed in shear agony, her face becoming red as a stop sign and the vein on her forehead looking like a rope. Alarms began to go off on the monitors. The nurses in the room tended to her quickly. “Mr. Kasey,” one of them said, “I need you to go to the waiting room. Okay. Everything will be fine. Don’t worry.”
“What’s wrong with her?” Stew asked as he was being ushered out of the room.
“I’m sure nothing is wrong but you need to wait for us to tell you it’s okay to come back in. Alright?”
Before he knew it, he was in the waiting staring at a closed door. He felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned to see it was his mom. He opened his mouth to say something but nothing came out.
“I know, my son,” she said, cradling his head with her hand and pulling it to her neck. “I know she’ll be fine but I can’t imagine what must going through your mind and heart right now. Come sit down. I’ll have Marie get you some coffee.”
Carolyn Kasey led her son to a couch in a corner of the waiting room where no one else was. “You know what today is, right?”
“Yeah. It’s October 30th.”
“No, son. It’s 2 o’clock in the morning. It’s the 31st.”
“Wow. I always thought it would be cool to have a birthday on Halloween.”
“That’s not all it is to you, though.”
“What do you mean?”
“October 31st last year was the day you were attacked.”
“Holy crap. I totally forgot.”
“I thought I might have lost you,” she said with tears in her eyes. “But I didn’t. And that woman in there, with your child in her belly… she barely left your side. You’re not going to lose her.”
“I know. That feeling of helplessness came rushing back, though, and hit me like a freight train.”
“Yeah, that train hit me, too.”
“I love you, Mom.”
“I love you, too, Son.”
“There’s the head,” the doctor said. “Come on, kiddo. And… it’s a girl.”
Jade cried with joy as she rested on the bed and waited for the nurses to bring her daughter to her. She reached out and cradled her baby girl in her arms. “Lenore Kiania Di Corvo.”
“You didn’t tell me you had a name picked out,” Murdock remarked as he beheld the raven-haired beauty in her arms.
“I didn’t know for sure until now. I had thought about Kiania which is a portuguese name meaning ‘the dawn.’ And then I just now thought Zachary might like the name ‘Lenore,’ which is an Edgar Allan Poe poem. Lenore means ‘light.’ It just fit together nicely.”
“It’s a beautiful name for a beautiful girl.”
“Mr. Kasey?” a nurse asked as she opened the door to the delivery hallway. Stew jumped up and followed the nurse back. “Your wife is fine. I apologize for making you leave the room. The baby was coming so quickly, your wife wasn’t ready for all that pain at once.” As they stood outside the delivery room, she declared, “Let me be the first to congratulate you on becoming a father.”
“I’m a father?”
“Would you like to meet your son?”
“It’s a boy?” Stew moved quickly toward the door of the delivery room but paused and made himself slow down before entering, not wanting to make too much noise. He opened the door and he felt a bright light growing in his chest. He saw Alex holding a blanketed bundle could feel the rims of his eyelids begin to moisten. He made his way to her side before his sight blurred with tears.
“Hi, Daddy,” Alex said in a sweet voice, speaking for the new life in her arms.
“Hey there, big guy,” Stew whispered as he tugged on the top of the receiving blanket so he could see his son’s face.
“You had me worried,” Stew sniffed.
“I know you were, Babe. But we’re fine now. He just wasn’t waiting any longer. He wanted to see his daddy.” She touched his cheek gently with her hand. He tilted his head to meet it.
“Do you want to talk names now or…” Alex hinted.
“We can talk about that in a bit. I’m enjoying the moment right now.”
“Okay. Are you ready to hold him?”
“I am so ready.”
Alex supported her son’s head while Stew went underneath with his left arm until his hand was over Alex’s. Alex let go as Stew wrapped his right arm around his other arm. Baby Kasey opened his eyes and Stew felt a joy he had never known before.
Jade slept in the Mother and Child room while Murdock and Baxter sat in the waiting room.
“How’s the food in the cafeteria?” Baxter asked. “I need some breakfast.”
“Garbage. If you want to go out and grab something, get me a bit, too, please?”
“Sure. Probably going to be chicken biscuits or something like that, if that’s okay.”
“That’s fine. Thank you, Baxter.”
“Mr. Murdock?” The nurse at the desk called. “Jade is asking for you.”
“Text me when you get back,” Murdock said as he walked past the nurses desk and into the hallway where Jade’s room was.
Mackinley Murdock had never been a father. He had never met anyone willing to settle down with him. Perhaps he just hadn’t met anyone he was willing to settle down with. Even then, he couldn’t help but be filled with feelings he had never felt and wasn’t even sure he could identify. Whatever these emotions were, there were two things that trumped them all. He took pride in his sense of loyalty and would never do anything to betray someone he had sworn fealty to. He also had a strong desire to not be killed by an immortal wizard.
He grabbed the door handle but hesitated before opening it. He had to concentrate and bury any non-platonic feelings and convince himself that he was “Uncle Mack” and that was all. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, turned the handle and walked in. Jade smiled at him, Lenore looking up at her with wide eyes.
“Come over here,” she beckoned. Murdock sighed, momentarily unable to move, but gathered his nerve and moved to her side. “I have to tell you something,” she said.
“Okay,” he replied, curious.
“You have to come closer.” He leaned in a little but not close enough because she grabbed his shirt at the chest and pulled him to her.
He resisted as she put her lips to his. He refused to open his mouth but embraced the kiss as it was. He let it linger for a moment and then pulled away. “I thought you had to tell me something.”
“I do. I wanted to thank you.”
“Well, it didn’t make anything easier thanking me like that.”
“I know. But a simple ‘thank you’ was—“
“What do you mean, you—? You… never mind. Baxter will be coming back soon with food. I’m going to go back to the waiting room and work on my last will and testament until he does.”
“Don’t worry about Zachary. I’ll take the blame. Do you want to hold her?”
“If I’m honest, I really do,” Murdock said as he prepared himself to hold what he considered to be a precious treasure.
“Here,” Jade told him, carefully handing Lenore to him. “Make sure you support her head.”
Murdock looked down at Lenore as she looked back up at him. Her steel blue eyes answered every question he had ever thought of, or so it seemed. At that moment, he couldn’t care less what actions Di Corvo would take if and when he ever got back. Even if the world came to an ugly, fiery end, he would embrace it. He was at peace. His heart, his mind and his soul was one with that child and that was all that mattered.
Carolyn and James Kasey walked into Alex’s room, trying unsuccessfully to hold back tears. She glided across the room as if she was walking on a cloud. “Look at that red hair,” she remarked. “That must be your side, Alex.”
“Probably. Mr. and Mrs. Kasey, I would like you to meet Eljun Axel Kasey. I picked the first name. Stew chose the middle.”
“Axel?” she said, hiding condescension.
“I wanted him to have Alex’s name but I wanted it to be unique as well, so I switched letters around.
“Eljun was my great-grandfather’s name,” Alex explained. “I promised my grandmother.”
“It does have a nice flow to it,” James interjected.
“I’ve been wondering about something,” Carolyn admitted. “You and Stew are immortal, have magic powers, yadda yadda yadda. What about Eljun?”
“We don’t know yet. I’m not sure if Wiz would know more or not.”
“Okay,” Carolyn announces. “Well, I’ve waited long enough. My turn to hold him.”
As Wiz sat in the waiting room with Fred, Samal and the rest, he found himself with the biggest smile he had been able to wear in hundreds of years. He was certain that Zachary would eventually find a way out of his prison but for now, he did not have to worry about him. He did not know if burning the raven feather did anything to disband Di Corvo’s followers but his hope was that, without Zachary there to guide them, they would self-destruct. With Zachary out of the picture and the Circle and everyone they cared about safe, he finally found no reason to worry and was able to relax and enjoy the moment. No one else was in the waiting room but it was still early afternoon on Halloween so he kept his voice down as he stood up and spoke. “This group… this family… has been given a gift today--a gift like I haven’t seen in awhile. I won’t make any speculation as to this baby being...” Wiz got even quieter, “immortal. That doesn’t matter right now. What does matter is that we surround this baby with love and positivity. I am so happy right now. I just don’t have the words to express it.” Wiz’s eyes welled up with tears.
“Wiz is right,” Fred said , standing up. “This baby is special. I haven’t met him yet and I can tell you that. “I am so thankful that God saw fit to bring you all into my life. I don’t pretend to know what’s in store for the future but I trust that His will, whatever that may be, will be done. Every single moment of everyone’s life has meaning and purpose. Even the things we think are mistakes… were set there with a mission—to teach, to help or for justice. Sometimes we get to see the reason something happens and we say, “So that’s why…” Most times we don’t. Most of the time we will never see how today’s misstep will be used for the benefit of somebody’s tomorrow. It doesn’t matter. Know that it’s His will. If we are meant to know why, He’ll show us. Trust Him. Have faith in each other. Love each other. Every morning, we are born again in His love. Live every moment on purpose… because there’s a purpose in every moment.”