Cole came into Lilly’s room and saw her staring up into the ceiling. He wished he could take away the pain she was feeling.
He had tried talking to her yesterday but she just winced when she turned away.
This morning, he came in with yellow daisies and a huge balloon.
“Good morning, sunshine,” he said as he had to hold back his emotions. He wanted to rush to her, kiss her and tell her how much he loved her, but he just walked over slowly and gave her the flowers.
“Morning,” she said as she reached for the flowers, and for a brief moment their hands touched and she felt the chemistry. It hadn’t been made up; at least she hadn’t thought so.
“How did you sleep?” Cole asked. He hated all the small-talk but he didn’t want to upset her again. Last night when he came in, she was crying and wouldn’t let him comfort her. He spoke to the doctor and suggested a mild sedative.
“Fine,” Lilly replied. She knew he had asked the doctors to knock her out, and she resented him for that. She wanted to know about the baby, but no one would give her an answer.
“Lilly?” It wasn’t that he said her name but it was how he said it, like it was full of pain and hurt. She knew he was disappointed in her, but she didn’t know that she had conceived triplets, and now two died and it was her fault.
“I’m fine, Cole. I’m just tired,” she lied and he knew it too.
About that time the nurse walked in and could feel the tension in the room. She offered to come back later, but Lilly said it was ok for her to stay.
“So, Ms. Lilly, are you up to going to see the little one?” the nurse asked.
Lilly sat up in the bed and asked why he wasn’t in the room.
“Oh, dear. He’s not well enough to leave the NIC unit, but you can go see him, if you are feeling up to it,” the nurse said tenderly.
“Yes, please,” Lilly said without even looking over at Cole. She had so many questions, but right now her thoughts were on her nephew.
“Ok, dear. Let me get you a wheelchair and I’ll take you to the
NIC unit to see him,” the nurse said as she was walking out the room, and then picked up the conversation when she re-entered, “then you two need to fill out the birth certificate. The little guy needs a name.” The nurse smiled at Lilly and then back to Cole.
The nurse helped Lilly out of bed. The pain was unbelievable. She wanted to lean on Cole, but she refused his help. Her pride was hurt. He kept having them dope her up.
“Just take your time, Lilly,” Cole finally said when she shooed away his hand.
“That’s right. Lilly, the worst part is over, dear,” the nurse said comfortingly.
Lilly settled down into the wheelchair and was not happy that Cole was joining her. She wanted to spend time alone with the baby, but she didn’t have any rights; it wasn’t her son, it was his.
The nurse continued to talk about trivial matters, trying to ease the tension between the two.
“Here we are. Now before we enter, has anyone told you what to expect?” the nurse asked gently.
“No. I’ve been told nothing about the baby.” Then, shooting daggers at Cole Lilly said, “Every time I ask, I get another knock- out drug.”
Cole knew now why she was upset, but he was only thinking of her. He didn’t want her to be upset and hurt by how the delivery had gone. He had cried for nearly two hours after pronouncing his son dead, and then as he sat at the NIC unit, he felt helpless, not only as a father but as a doctor. His son was going to have a hard road ahead of him, and he didn’t know if he could do it alone. So when Lilly woke up asking questions, he felt it best if she just relaxed and let him handle the stress. She had done a terrific job bringing his son into the world, and she didn’t need to worry unnecessarily.
“Well, you needed rest. Trust me, you will be glad you did once you are able to take this little guy home. Before you know it, he will be grown and moving out. I always tell patients to enjoy the rest while they are here and let the nurses do the hard work because once you get home, it’s all on you.”
But was it on her? Lilly didn’t know anymore. Perhaps Cole had lost his love for her, just as he had for Sara. Just thinking that made her shed a tear. Cole wanted desperately to wipe it from her face, but he promised to stay back and see how she felt about him. He had already declared his intentions to her.
“Okay, so the little guy is in a ventilator. It helps protect him from germs, and also gives him the additional attention he needs right now. There’s special lights that help him get his color back, and it provides oxygen.” The nurse said softly.
“He’s not breathing on his own?” Lilly asked, teary-eyed.
“He is, but this just keeps him from having to struggle. He’s small, and as a premie not all of his organs have finished developing. We do have IV in his foot. I don’t want you to be alarmed. It’s just so we don’t have to keep poking him. We are giving him fluids to keep him hydrated.”
Lilly just shook her head, not fully expecting to feel the tug of emotion when she was wheeled in to see him. He was in a clear casket. He was so little and was all alone, just as she had been. She started to cry, and Cole pulled up a chair next to her and tried to talk to her.
“Lilly, he’s going to be okay. I’ve seen premies smaller than him grow up to be big strapping boys. He’s a fighter, like his mother,” Cole said, trying to console her, but he didn’t realize how much his words stung her.
Lilly asked the nurse if she could hold the baby, but the nurse just shook her head. “Not yet. He still has a way to go before he can be held,” the nurse said sadly.
Lilly was crying, and Cole tried to console her, but she didn’t want his pity. She felt so alone.
“Lilly, do you want to go back to the room?” Cole asked her softly.
She didn’t have a voice to speak, so she just nodded her head.
The nurse was busy, but said she would meet them down at the room.
Cole was glad to have Lilly to himself.
“Cole, have you called my parents?” she finally said.
“Yes. They are coming down this weekend. By then you should be released,” he said, squeezing her shoulder.
She vowed not to allow her body to respond to his touch, and she didn’t. Cole was lost without being able to touch her, comfort her, but she kept rebuffing his attempts.
By the time they made their way to her room, the nurse was there to assist Lilly back into the bed.
“Are you hurting?” Cole inquired. She just said that she didn’t want anymore drugs.
“Lilly, dear, it’s ok if you take something for pain,” Cole stated, lost at how to react to her depression.
“I’m fine. I’m just tired,” she said softly.
The nurse interjected, “Well I will leave you two, but you need to fill out the birth certificate. I’ll come get it later.”
Lilly didn’t respond or accept the clipboard; instead she shut her eyes, trying to keep her tears at bay.
Cole wasn’t sure what to do. He didn’t feel that he should leave her. She looked so sad, and he wanted to take that feeling away from her.
With her eyes still closed, Lilly asked Cole where the other baby was at?
“In the morgue,” Cole said slowly. “I need to make some decisions, but I can’t think logically.”
“Have you seen him?” she said with tears flowing from her closed eyes.
“Yes. He’s beautiful and looks peaceful,” Cole replied and put his hands over hers.
“Can I see him?”
“Lilly, honey, I don’t know if that’s a good idea. You need your strength and rest. I’ll take care of everything. I promise, everything will be okay.” He was trying to reassure her, but instead it just made her angrier.
“Did you name him?” she asked.
“No, not without speaking to you.”
“I’d like to name him after my parents. Can we name him Jack?” she asked him, finally opening her eyes.
“Yes, Lilly. I think that would be wonderful. I will take care of the paperwork.”
“And what about the one that is still alive? Do you have a name picked out?”
“No. Honestly, Lilly, I’ve been so worried about you, I’ve not thought about naming the baby.”
“Sara said she wanted a Williams baby, so I think she’d like it if we named him William.”
“Sounds good to me,” Cole said searching her eyes for any hope.
“Leave the paperwork. I will fill it out for both babies,” Lilly said, as if she was dismissing him.
“Sure,” he said sadly. “I guess I will go back down to the NIC unit and check on William.”
“Fine. Goodbye, Cole.” Her words sounded so final but he refused to leave this way.
“Lilly, I don’t know what is going through your pretty little head, but this is not goodbye...it’s goodnight. I will see you tomorrow,” he said as he leaned down and kissed her forehead and wiped away her tears.
Lilly closed her eyes once again, as if she didn’t want to hear what he was saying any longer.
After Cole left the room, she grabbed the clipboard and filled it out for both William and Jack. She put it aside and left it for the nurse to pick up later.
She closed her eyes and thought back to her dream of having a family, and realized that she didn’t have any claims on Sara’s. These were Sara’s children and it was Lilly’s fault that one of them died.
She cried herself to sleep.
The next morning, as promised, Cole returned with her some clean clothing. Lilly was being released to an empty house and without her nephew.
She quickly got dressed and winced at the pain, but refused any assistance.
She accepted Cole’s hand when he moved the wheelchair near her. She felt like her gut had dropped out of her. She was in so much pain but didn’t want to let it show, even though she knew he could see it.
They rode home in silence. She kept looking out the window and let the tears fall freely. She couldn’t help how she was feeling. Cole reached over and grabbed her hand, and this time she didn’t retract it. It felt nice to have him near, but she knew it wouldn’t last.
When they arrived at the townhouse, he helped her into the house, where she was greeted by three dozen yellow roses. They were beautiful, but she couldn’t look at them without crying harder.
Cole led her into her bedroom, and she noticed that he had changed all the linens, and they were nice and soft when she got into bed.
He came back with a tray with juice, coffee and dry toast, and asked if she wanted anything else.
“No...thank you,” she said hesitantly.
“Lilly, we need to talk,” Cole said as he positioned the tray over her slimmer stomach.
“Not right now, please, Cole. I’m not up to it,” she said, finally meeting his eyes, and then promised that they would soon.
As he was walking out of her bedroom, she called his name, and he turned around. Lilly simply said, “Thank you.”
“For what?” he asked, unsure of what he had done that was worthy of being thanked.
“Just for not pressuring me.”
“Lilly, I promised you that I wouldn’t pressure you. That I’d give you time to decide what you wanted, and I am trying hard to keep my promises, but it’s not easy. I miss talking with you. I miss laughing and watching your eyes light up...I miss you,” Cole finally said, and closed the door behind him.
Lilly was shocked at how open and honest he had been. He missed her, not his child, or his wife, but her. Maybe she had been confused because of the drugs, but she thought he was trying to distance himself from her.
For the first time, she fell asleep without crying. Instead she fell asleep with a smile on her face, for the first time in over a week.