We heard pretty early in the morning from Seb that Nicole had gone into labour. It was after lunch that she finally gave birth and Ethan and I made our way down to the hospital to see her and Brad. Walking into the waiting room, it was full of Italians, the Valentino’s taking up most of the small space, their voices filled with excitement.
I saw Jane in the corner with Tammy and Lucy and automatically made my way over to her, greeting the Valentino family individually as I went. Jane looked up a smiled when she saw me, I swear her smile lights up the room. I pulled her into a hug before moving to Lucy and Tammy.
“Seb and Chris have gone to get coffees with Tony and Luca.” Lucy tells me when she sees me scan the room. I nod my head in acknowledgement before taking a seat next to Jane.
“Do we know what she’s had yet?” I ask and Lucy smiles broadly.
“A girl!” she squeals before quieting down. “We don’t know her name though, Mum and dad are in there now with Tommy, Angelina and Rafael, the rooms quite small so we have to take turns.” I nod my head before turning to Tammy who looks tired and warn out.
“How are you Tammy, and Chris?” I ask, she gives me a smile that doesn’t reach her eyes and shrugs.
“We’re doing ok, Chris has his good days and bad days. Todays a good day.” She tells me and I reach out, placing my hand on hers.
“You know I’m here if you need to talk right? We all are.” She nods her head and squeezes my hand. It’s hard seeing her looking so run down. Especially knowing that it could have been prevented. I know Chris is struggling with his PTSD, unfortunately, Tammy is also suffering because of it. We often overlook the people supporting those who are suffering, never really asking how they are or checking in on them. I make a mental note to reach out to Tammy more. It’s the least I can do.
Seb and Chris return with coffees for the girls, Chris looking thinner than normal, and just as tired as what Tammy looks, his hands still shake slightly, though I think that will always be that way. He’s quiet as we all catch up, though it hasn’t been that long since we have seen each other really.
Eventually, Seb and Lucy disappear into the room Nicole is staying as their parents walk out. We watch as all the family take turns meeting Brad and Nicole’s little girl before Jane and I, with Chris, Tammy and Ethan all file into the room.
Sitting in the bed is Nicole, looking at the little bundle of pink that Brad is nursing. She’s absolutely glowing as she smiles adoringly down at the baby. Brad stands as we walk in, and immediately approaches Tammy who has her arms outstretched. He smiles as he places his daughter in her awaiting arms.
“Everyone, I’d like you to meet Natalie Charity Morgan.” Brad says with a prideful voice, his eyes not leaving his new born daughter for a moment. I smile at the name, knowing she’s named for Nicole’s best friend and her sister who have both passed away.
Tammy coos over Natalie before reluctantly passing her to Jane, who looks absolutely panicked at holding such a small baby. I can’t help but chuckle as she looks at me with fear filled eyes, but she takes her anyway, listening to Brad’s instructions on how to hold her. She rocks her slightly as Ethan and I look over her shoulders, peering down at the small bundle.
I met Lucy and Seb’s son Richard, or little Dick as Ethan calls him, when he was born, as well as Chris and Tammy’s daughter Ava. I even met Tommy a couple of hours after he was born and left in the middle of the bush, and I have to say, that all babies look the same when they aren’t even a day old. Natalie is no different, her face is squished, her skin covered in some white stuff with red blotchy cheeks. She’s not cute, they never are, in fact, she looks like a deformed alien.
“She’s beautiful Nicole,” I say with a smile as Ethan and Jane nod in agreement. Ethan shoots me a look that I saw at all the other children’s births from him, he’s thinking the same thing as I am. Still, I don’t have a death wish, I would never tell a mother her baby is ugly, besides, I know they eventually look more human.
Tammy asks Nicole all about the birth, but I tune out of their conversation, instead watching Jane’s facial expressions as she cuddles Natalie. It’s a mixture of fear, awe and confusion and I can’t help but smile as she scrunches up her nose and furrows her brow every now and then as she watches her.
When Nicole starts yawning, we take our leave and Jane hands Natalie back to Brad. Ethan and I both opted out of holding Natalie, I don’t mind holding babies, just not when they are that young, I feel like my giant hands are going to squish them.
As we walk out of the room and into the hallway towards the exit, Jane walks closer to my side.
“Do they always look like that?” she whispers to me, her nose screwing up slightly. I look to Ethan who is walking beside Jane as he chuckles quietly.
“Pretty much.” I tell her. She screws her nose up again and looks towards the exit.
“Oh…” is her only reply. I look to Ethan as we share a quiet chuckle in understanding.
The truck bumps along the dirt road throwing us around on the metal seats. My hands tied together in front of me with a natural fibre rope that itches at my skin. It’s not that tight that it’s cutting off my circulation, but tight enough to be uncomfortable and to be unable to get out of. Its pitch black due to the sack that’s been placed over my head, though I can still hear the roar of the engine and the laboured breathing of Kyle next to me.
My thoughts go to Ethan and Seb, wondering how they are holding up in the scenario that we are in, tied up and blindfolded in the back of a truck as we travel to god knows where. I estimate that we have been on the road for about 4 hours now, noting that we left the smooth bitumen for what I imagine to be dirt or gravel about an hour ago. We didn’t take that many turns from when we were thrown in the truck, 2 rights and a left before we picked up speed, no doubt onto a freeway, and then dropped speed as we veered to the left and then took a sharp left turn. From there it was pretty much straight, a few bends in the road before we hit the dirt, where we rolled over hills, definitely needing a 4 wheel drive for wherever we are heading.
Another hour of travel and the truck stops, throwing us slightly from our seats and I brace myself quickly so I don’t hit the floor. It’s a minute later before the back of the truck is lowered and someone hoists themselves up into the truck.
Hands grab the rope between my wrists and tug me to my feet. I comply, knowing not to waste my energy on fighting back right now. I follow them to the edge of the truck before I’m nudged down. I sit on the edge of the truck and allow them to guide me down to the ground. The ground is uneven under my feet and the sun beats down in scorching rays upon us. I can feel myself burning almost instantly. I’m guided away from the truck, with the sun hitting slightly behind me, and the time of day it must be, I’m guessing we are walking to the east. We walk until I’m told to sit down, the sun not as hot in this part and I’m guided to a sitting position against a firm object, by the feel it is a tree.
A solid body is placed next to me, by the size I’m guessing its Seb, 2 more placed around us and something dumped in front of us with a loud thud. The rope around my wrist is loosened but I don’t make any moves to remove it completely.
“When the timer goes off, you can remove your bindings and blindfold.” A deep voice says. “There’s a pack in front of you with enough rations and water for 2 days, good luck.” Footsteps move away from us, after a few minutes I hear a truck start and change into gear. As the sound of the truck moves away I lay my head back against the tree and wait for the timer to go off, knowing, without a doubt, that we are now in the middle of the desert with only 2 days rations to get ourselves home.