“Stella! Connor and Alex are coming for supper tonight.” Gemma calls through the door that she’s currently walking through with her arms loaded down with grocery sacks.
“Hope you’re planning on cooking because my ankles hurt too much to stand on for longer than walking to the bathroom.” I groan, glancing over my huge stomach at my swollen feet that literally don’t fit in any of my shoes. “Plus, I’ve been crying at everything today and I don’t think they want tears in their food.”
“Ew, yeah. I think I’ll do the cooking tonight, even though Connor requested your famous sweet and sour chicken.”
“You know the recipe.” I groan at my stomach where Amora’s foot just landed a kick to the left wall of my uterus.
“Has she been being difficult lately?” Gemma asks, taking things out of the shopping bags while I try to soothe my unborn daughter.
“Today has been awful. I didn’t go to class because I thought I was going into early labor this morning, but that turned out to be nothing, and then this afternoon I’ve had heartburn like crazy, and she’s restless. I called Dr. Adams and she said that’s fairly normal since I only have about 3 weeks left in my term. She says that it’s the baby’s way of starting to work its way to the birthing canal.” I groan at my daughter, who moves just wrong and I think she crushes my bladder, because I’m off the couch waddling my way to the bathroom faster than I’ve moved all day. I called and talked to Beau for a while this morning after I thought I was having contractions, but they turned out to just be Amora hitting the inner side of my uterus with what I think was her fist. He was ready to jump in the truck and head up here as soon as I said the word contraction, and it took me fifteen minutes to talk him out of it.
While I’m busy relieving my bladder that Amora thought I needed to empty, I hear the door to hour house open and Connor and Alex’s voices start drifting through the house. I’m so glad Connor finally found someone who makes him as happy as Beau makes me and Fernando makes Gemma. I also can’t believe that Beau used to think we had a thing. I think that may have been part of why we broke up in the first place, but I don’t think Beau would ever admit that now that he knows Connor is gay. The whole reason I had invited him home for the first part of that summer was because he didn’t want to go home and face the judgement of his aunt that had been staying with his parents while her house was being remodeled.
“Connor!” I grin, waddling back into the living room after washing my hands and slipping my feet into a pair of slippers that are cushiony and the only things that fit right now.
“Stella, my dear! Oh, you’re just glowing! Isn’t she just glowing, Alex?” Connor asks, grabbing my hand and pressing his palm against my stomach as Alex walks over to me and wraps his arm around my waist.
“Yes, you look radiant my darling. Here, here. Let’s get you a chair.” Alex frets for a while, trying to lead me to a barstool, but I resist.
“Thanks for trying to help, Alex, but I’m going to sit back on the couch where I can elevate my feet.” I chuckle, glancing down at my way too swollen ankles.
“Of course, of course.” He grins, leading me to the couch and lowering me to the cushions. “I guess this means no famous sweet and sour chicken that Connor hasn’t shut up about since I met him.”
“Gemma knows how to fry the chicken, and I think I can manage to whip up the sauce recipe.” I wink at him, before propping my feet up on the coffee table and glancing at my phone at a text from Beau, sending me a picture of a newborn calf he just tagged. I sigh while I think about how much I miss him, but then remember that as soon as I’m graduated, I’m moving home and we’re going to have a daughter to raise together. Even though I lived without him for nearly two years, now that I have him back in my life, it hurts being away from him even more. I wish he could be here with me now, but I know that he’s running things back home, and he can’t ditch. Not right in the middle of winter.
“Stel, I need your opinion on something.” Connor plops his sketchbook into my lap, and kicks back on the couch beside me while Alex helps Gemma fry chicken. “Should my final piece be a portrait or an abstract representation of my life?”
“Connor, you know I’m a little biased towards your portraits.” I chuckle, thinking about the small sketch he did in five minutes that is framed in my room.
“Well, that’s the thing. If I do the portrait I want to do something different, and I was kind of wondering if I could use you as my reference. I want to show the emotion of pregnancy, the pain and joy and love you’re feeling, but you know that I have to have a model to draw it.” Connor starts rambling, and I grab his forearm with a huge smile on my face.
“Connor, I’d be honored!” I exclaim, doing my best to hug him at the awkward angle we’re sitting at.
“I was so hoping you’d say that.” He grins, and grabs his sketchbook back. “So I was playing with a few different things in my head, trying to figure out how I can put this onto paper, and I think I’m going to do a frame-by-frame piece from like the pregnancy stick, to whatever you felt after that, to feeling Amora kick for the first time, to the emotion of telling Beau, to the pain and discomfort here before the birth, and then the final one being after Amora is born so I can add her in. I know the first few are going to be difficult, and I wish I had thought of this back when you first found out, but someone forgot to tell me that she was prego.” Connor whips his head to me as he practically accuses me of terrorism or something.
“If anyone can do it, you can.” I smirk at my second best friend in the whole world, and rest my head on his shoulder while tears prick my eyes. “I can’t wait to see the final piece. When do we start?”
“Right now. We have a couple of hours before the chicken is done, right?” I nod, and he grabs his charcoal pencil and starts placing my limbs where he wants them. It takes him a few minutes and a few different poses to find the position he wants me in, and after he finally grabs a stool and his poster board, he starts drawing. Now, in the past three years I’ve sat for a quite a few artists, one even asked to draw me throwing on my wheel, but Connor is a different kind of artist. He doesn’t even need to look at the paper to get his gesture lines perfect, and from there all he does is outline and shade everything. He’ll go back in and add detail like facial expression and wrinkles and stretch marks at the end of his drawing, but before he even gets close to being done, Gemma is calling us for supper. “Remember your pose, Stel.” Connor tells me before helping me up off the couch so we can grab our chicken and rice.
“This was a great idea, Connor. I haven’t had this in forever.” I groan, thankful that Amora at least likes chicken, considering she pretty much hates everything else. I can still eat steak, but she detests bacon, and I can only get away with eating hamburger once in a blue moon.
“Hey, this was all Alex’s idea. I just took the idea to Gemma.” Connor shrugs, scooping a bite of his chicken with the rice and shoveling it into his mouth.
“I was having a craving this morning, and this was the only thing that could settle it.” Alex chuckles, taking his own bite of the chicken.
“Cravings? Are you sure you’re not the pregnant one here?” I tease, and Amora’s foot jabs me in the side again. “She apparently wanted me to know that I am in fact, definitely pregnant.” I groan, rubbing the spot where Alex’s eyes nearly popped out of his head because he saw the outline of her foot, that’s how hard she kicked.
“Does that happen a lot?” He gasps, his eyes darting from my stomach to my eyes.
“The kicking? Yeah, happens a few times every day.” I shrug, still teasing him.
“No, the seeing the foot part.”
“Oh, um, yeah. That was one of the more relatively strong kicks she’s given, but every now and then you can see the outline of a foot or fist, whichever one she thinks will cause me more pain at the moment.” I laugh, getting up to grab a drink out of the fridge.
“Holy mother of Jesus.” I cry out in pain when one of the worst pains of my life shoots through the lower half of my body, and the water bottle in my hand falls to the floor as I reach for the table.
“Stel, are you okay?” Connor gasps, reaching for me to make sure I don’t fall down.
“That hurt like hell.” I grunt, lowering myself back into my chair. That pain was ten times worse than this morning’s pain, but I know it’s just a Braxton Hicks contraction. Dr. Adams said everything was on track for two to three more weeks.
“Do I need to call Beau?” Gemma asks, a worried look on her face, and I shake my head.
“There’s nothing he can do right now, so it would be a pointless trip up here.” I shrug, tentatively picking up my fork and taking another bite of chicken. “Gemma, this really is delicious.” I tell her, trying to change the subject from my sudden pain.
“Well you taught me how to make it.” She glares at me for changing the subject, but allows it.
The other two follow suit, and after we’ve finished eating, Connor works on his portrait for a few more hours while the rest of us catch up on Supernatural shows we’ve missed over the past few weeks.
“Thanks for supper, babes. We’ll have to do this again soon.” Connor grins as he and Alex are getting ready to leave for the night.
“Most definitely. I mean, we are going to have quite a few more drawing sessions, aren’t we?” I smile, standing up and walking them to the front door. Gemma passed out on the couch a while ago, and I’m going to head to bed just as soon as these two have left.
“Of course. You have no idea how excited I am for my final piece. I have the vision in my head and as long as I have you to model, I know I can finish it.” He smiles, and leans down to kiss my cheek before I am grabbing the closest thing which happens to be his hand as another sharp pain hits my uterus, and I’m left screaming in agony while I clutch Connor’s hand.
“Ow!” I scream, nearly landing on my knees before Alex grabs my other elbow to keep me from falling.
“Stel, my dear, I don’t think that’s normal.” Alex softly tells me, and I shake my head.
“I don’t either.” I whimper, and Gemma finally sits up.
“I’m calling Beau, and you can’t stop me. You need to get to the hospital right now, missy.” Gemma glares as she grabs her phone and finds Beau’s number before heading to my bedroom and grabbing my baby bag that I’ve had packed for just over a week, just in case.
“Beau, hey, I think you should probably be getting up here as soon as possible. Connor, Alex and I are taking Stella to the hospital. She’s been having these weird contraction-like pains and I don’t think they’re Braxton Hicks, either.” She tells Beau through the phone while Alex and Connor are helping me down the stairs to our house and into the front seat of Connor’s SUV. “Yeah, Beau. I’m sure. She nearly landed on her knees five minutes ago.”
“Dammit, let me talk to him.” I try to reach around my seat to grab the phone from her, but she pulls back out of my reach.
“No. You’ll just try to talk him out of coming.” She glares at me, and then turns back to Beau.
“You’re way too weak when it comes to her. Seriously Beau, just get here asap and if the police stop you tell them you have a baby on the way and you absolutely have to be there for the birth because you’ve missed so much of the pregnancy already and whatever you do, just keep rambling to the officer until he feels bad enough to give you an escort.” Gemma babbles into the phone while I squeeze Connor’s hand way too hard while he’s weaving in and out of cars on the highway and running red lights trying to get me to the hospital. I’m still totally sure I’m not in labor, but I don’t know what else this could possibly be. I mean, my water hasn’t broken yet, the pain isn’t constant, and the baby hasn’t started shifting down into the birthing canal yet.
Despite the fact that we live in Savannah, the drive to the hospital is incredibly long – nearly completely across town. By the time we get there, I hear Gemma still talking to Beau, finding out that he’s only about 45 minutes out already. He must really be driving fast, because it usually takes 30 minutes to get to the hospital, and we’ve probably been in the car for 20.
“Sorry guys, I’m sure this probably isn’t how you both wanted to spend your Friday night.” I chuckle, glancing back at Alex who hasn’t let go of my elbow since we got in the car. I’m so glad I have friends like these who are there for me when I need them most.
“We wouldn’t miss this for the world, Stel.” Alex reassures me, and I try to reach for the phone again, but Gemma refuses, and hangs up instead.
“Why would you do that? I needed to hear his voice.” I whimper, tears threatening to well up.
“You’ll hear his voice soon enough. We’re almost to the hospital.” She snaps, and I turn back to face the road, and press my hand to my stomach, suddenly aware that I haven’t felt her move in a while. I get a really bad feeling in the pit of my stomach, and more tears threaten to fall.
As soon as Connor has pulled up directly out front of the hospital’s emergency doors, he and Alex have leapt out of the car and are helping me walk into the hospital. “Ah!” I gasp as my water finally breaks, but instead of the liquid being clear, I see a tint of red to it. “Oh my god, is it supposed to be bloody?” I screech while Gemma is working on getting a doctor.
“Dr. Adams is her OB/GYN. Get her here immediately!” She screams at some orderly, and I’m in a full on panic mode as a nurse lowers me into a wheelchair and races off down the hall.
“Is this supposed to happen? Am I supposed to be bleeding right now?” I gasp as tears cloud my vision and I try not to choke while I’m gasping for air around the pain I feel in my abdomen and the fear in my chest.
“It is not normal, and we have to get you prepped for an emergency C-Section right away.” The nurse calmly tells me while she pushes me back to a surgery prep room where she spends the fluid, and into a hospital gown. Immediately I’m being strapped onto a hospital bed as a doctor I’ve never seen before examines me, and determines I have what is called “Placental Abruption” and apparently it’s extremely dangerous – for both me and the baby.
Almost immediately, I’m being poked and prodded with needles, and the next thing I remember is faintly hearing Beau yell my name before he appears at my side while I’m loopy on medication. I reach my hand up to caress his face before mumbling some incoherent words at him before I’m knocked out completely.