The weekend passed by quickly and somehow slowly at the same time. I spent six hours at the hospital on Saturday and four on Sunday before I went to dinner. Kara and I bonded a bit more and I knew that she was someone I would love to be friends with.
The baby was amazing. He had lost a little weight but was back up to six pounds exactly and he just seemed bigger to me. It was amazing how much he could change in just one short week.
His little suck reflex was better, too. The feeding tube was still in but they had reduced how much he received through that because he was taking a bit more from the bottle.
I checked in with Valerie and Kevin on Sunday but they still didn’t have the lab results back and Kevin promised to call the moment they had them. He also told me that they hadn’t been able to locate Angela Roberts and that when they searched her apartment, it had looked like she’d packed all of her clothes. If the DNA came back to match Jared Hart, they would issue an arrest warrant for Angela and start a wider search.
I woke up easily on Monday morning and was dressed and ready to go a lot sooner than I normally was. Nervous energy flowed through my veins at the thought of seeing City Roast- Jared- again. I had no idea what to even say because everything had changed since the last time we were at Java Express.
A car accident clogged traffic, basically erasing any extra time I had given myself that morning. I finally pulled into the parking lot and killed my engine, taking in a few deep breaths before pushing my door open. I could tell Java Express was packed before I even opened the door and my suspicions were confirmed when the crowd of people waiting came into view. Glancing around, I saw that I wouldn’t have to wait in line.
City Roast was waiting at one of the tables with two cups of coffee and two pastries in front of him. He was in a black suit and a light pink shirt with a navy blue tie affixed to his neck. His hair was unruly, just like it always was, and the sight of him made my heart race.
His eyes met mine and a broad smile filled his face, causing one to hit mine, too. I stepped towards the table and took my coffee in hand when he offered it up to me.
“You know, I never would have guessed Stephanie.”
I chuckled and shook my head as I put my coffee down and reached for the apple fritter he’d purchased. “Jared wasn’t even on my radar.”
“Does that mean we both win or we both lose?” he asked after he’d taken a long sip of his drink and I shook my head.
“I don’t know.”
“Yeah,” he replied, his voice soft and pensive. “I guess everything has changed since I left, hasn’t it?”
“It really has,” I agreed with a sigh. “If that baby turns out to be yours, your life is going to be completely different. You won’t have time to sleep, let alone date. If that baby turns out to be yours, I’m going to be the one managing your case.”
He ran a hand down his face and shook his head. “A baby. I might have a baby. I don’t even know what to think about that.”
“It’s going to be okay. I’ll be here to help in any way I can. As a case manager if it comes to that but as a friend no matter what.” I reached out and covered his hand with my own. His eyes darted to meet mine and his lips tipped up slightly.
“A friend. If that’s all that’s on the table, I’ll take it.”
We stayed like that, not saying anything more, for a moment and I finally removed my hand when I saw the time on my phone. We finished off the pastries, cleaned up our garbage, and grabbed our cups. As always, Jared led me out to my car and opened the door for me.
“Oh, wait,” he said suddenly, reaching into his suit pocket to grab something. He held out his hand and revealed three Ghirardelli chocolate bars, as promised. I couldn’t have held back the laughter if I’d tried as I took them.
“You are a prince among men, Mr. Hart.” I leaned in and pressed a kiss to his cheek, just like I had ten days before. It was completely unprofessional and something I probably shouldn’t have done, but I did it anyway. “See you tomorrow.”
“See you tomorrow, Vanilla Latte.” He closed my door and stepped back, watching as always as I drove away.
Mondays at work were always busy just because of all of the reports and messages we received over the weekend. Our dispatcher went through the tips on our abuse and neglect hotline and then emailed them to me so I could distribute them to our employees.
It was after six when I finally left the office and headed towards the hospital to see Chris. Kara wasn’t there but the other nurses had become used to my presence, too, and they let me have all the time I wanted as I sat in the rocking chair with Chris up against my mostly-bare chest.
The feeding tube was still in but Dr. Struthers told me that they would probably remove it in the next day or two. He was eating really well from a bottle and they weren’t giving him supplemental nutrition anymore.
Chris was keeping his eyes open a little longer each time and I loved when he’d stare up at me while I spoke to him. I liked to think that he like listening to me talk and I had full on conversations with the ten-day-old baby. “And with these long legs you’ll play sports,” I said to him quietly. “Maybe basketball or track but something. But you’ll have to study hard, too, so you can become a doctor or an astronaut. It’s important to find balance, Chris.”
“You’re a great mommy,” someone said quietly to my left and I jerked my head up to find a woman standing by the bassinet next to Chris’s. I didn’t recognize her but new people arrived every day.
Before I could respond, she hurried on. “The bond you share is beautiful. He obviously adores you already.”
“Thanks,” I whispered as I swallowed around the lump in my throat. “Did you just arrive?”
She nodded and gestured to her bassinet. “Louie was born last night. We’re hoping he’ll only be here a night or two. I was four weeks early.”
The nurse came over to help the mom try to breastfeed and I was thankful for the distraction. I rocked Chris until he was back to sleep and then put him in his bed before quietly sneaking out.
I met Jared for coffee both Tuesday and Wednesday morning and we kept the conversation as normal as possible. He did ask for updates on the baby and I offered him as much information as I could without breaking confidentiality. I could tell he wanted to know more but was keeping himself as detached as possible, just in case he wasn’t the father.
It was after lunch Wednesday when my office phone rang and I snatched up immediately when I saw who was calling.
“Hi, Steph,” Valerie replied cheerfully. “Do you have a second?”
I leaned back in my chair and looked out the window. “I have plenty of seconds for you.”
“The DNA results finally came back.”
“Wow, finally.” I kept my eyes on the city as I inhaled a deep breath. “And?”