A Newborn Journey
Dylan was on his feet holding Hayley on his shoulder. He looked to be mid twenties. Moving a bit while keeping up the rhythm, he stroked her back. It was thick with the excess of muscle fat on her body. She sucked her thumb in her mouth. A door opened in the room. He turned to the sound of his sister, “Dylan.”
“Ellie,” he responded approaching her still bouncing a little keeping Hayley asleep, “I’m glad you came.”
Dylan gulped noting her irked expression. He prepared for the scolding. Aside from her irked face and her dirty blonde hair in a tight bun, she wore her black camo military uniform, black military boots, carried a tote bag with the baby stuff in it and held the hand of her three year old son. The Second Lieutenant rank was on her collar. The woman was in her twenties. Her son stared at his uncle while sucking his thumb.
Ellie responded with an unamused tone, “What have you got to say for yourself, brother?”
“What-“ Dylan started but Ellie interrupted, “Don’t you ’what’ me. Do you realize what you have done? Do you understand the responsibilities now you hold? Do you realize how drekked up this situation is?”
Keeping his hand on Hayley’s back, Dylan offered his other open palm as a white flag of surrender responding, “Hey! Timeout. This just happened, okay? I didn’t plan for this, so this is what is going to happen. I will take responsibility for it. She is my daughter.”
Ellie interjected angrily pointing with enforcement, “Yes, she is your daughter and that means sacrifice. A lot of sacrifices. That means no more fights for you, no hanging out with your bros, no extracurricular activities or drinking in the afterhours. All your focus will be on her, no one else.”
As Dylan got close to Ellie, he responded touching her shoulder, “Hey. I got it. Okay? Can we sit?”
Ellie exhaled a long angry sigh closing her eyes and refocused her energies to control her temper. Shifting the weight of the strap over her shoulder, she moved her shoulders around to massage her muscled traps. Dylan kissed her on the cheek as Ellie released her hold on her son’s hand to hug him back. She nodded feeling a bit calmer, “Sure.”
Ellie walked over to the chair as Dylan knelt down to one knee to greet his nephew, “Hey Niall. How’s it going, bud?”
Niall shrugged and responded, “Mommy’s angry, Uncle.”
Dylan closed his eyes and sighed putting his head down. Ellie responded beckoning her son over with her finger while taking out a game pad from her tote bag, “Niall, come over here and get your game.”
“Yes, mommy,” Niall walked past his uncle and took the gamepad. He took his seat and turned it on.
Dylan exhaled a sigh. Getting up gently, he caressed Hayley onto his strong arms and gently bounced her in rhythm while approaching the chair. He joined her side sitting down keeping his focus on his daughter. Ellie was watching him. She was stern and held back her anger toward him. Looking down in the tote bag, she fished out a warm bottle of breast feeding milk she filled and heated earlier for him.
Handing it to him, she responded, “Here you go. It’s been quite some time since she’s been breast fed, right? Where’s the mother?”
“Thanks,” Dylan responded accepting the bottle. Hayley roused making a grunt sound. He placed the bottle close to her mouth and Hayley started suckling the bottle taking the milk. She kept her hands on the rim of the bottle keeping it close. Dylan replied hesitating, “She’s not here. She left when I came.”
Ellie gasped and snapped, “What? She abandoned her?”
Dylan looked at her and responded, “She didn’t have a choice. She’s a grounder.”
She scowled at him inhaling sharply, “She’s a what? Do you realize what you are saying or what it means? Without a stable mother, she would have to go to the system. If father were here, he’d be disappointed in you.”
Dylan responded, “Well he’s not here, is he? Look, I know what it means. I can handle it. I can do this.”
Ellie shook her head. She scoffed looking through her tote bag and responded taking out her cell phone, “I have to report this.”
Letting go of the bottle Hayley was holding, Dylan grabbed his sister’s phone and took it. Ellie exhaled sharply as he hid it. She scowled at him as Dylan held his forefinger toward her arguing, “Don’t. I will not let you do this. I know you have to do what you have to do, so I beg you. Don’t. Trust me. I got this.”
Ellie shook her head and retorted, “The last time I trusted you with something we lost thousands of dollars. I had to go to our step mother and beg her for another chance. The one chance that we needed. We’re lucky she has elite status. What would she think if she figures out our current situation? Huh? The elites care nothing for the grounders.”
Keeping his finger primed, Dylan responded, “I know. Don’t remind me. Look, I know I haven’t been the best role model in the past. I may have-“
“May have?” Ellie strongly interjected questioning him.
Dylan exhaled, “Okay, I have been not keeping to my promises, but I promise you right now. I have a baby daughter. This is life changing stuff, little sister. I mean, look at her. Will you send her into the system without letting me try? Look!”
He looked down as he kept his daughter lying resting on his arm. With his free hand, he stroked her chest and watched her holding the bottle without his aide. Ellie exhaled a sigh watching her. Shaking her head, she looked at him and extended her hand responding, “Don’t call me little sister. My phone. Now.”
Dylan tried, but sighed taking out her phone and handed it to her. Ellie took the phone back and held on to it. She watched the newborn thinking. Dylan responded, “Please. Show a little empathy.”
Ellie exhaled. Placing the phone back into her tote bag, she spoke stroking the baby’s forehead with her thumb, “What’s her name?”
Dylan smiled as he exhaled relieved, “Hayley.”
Ellie stared at her brother and exclaimed inquiring, “After mother?” Dylan nodded and Ellie concluded, “She’d be proud if she was still here. You know, you have to live up to your promise. If you break it, you’re on your own. I’m not helping you anymore.”
Dylan nodded responding, “Understood. Thanks.”
Still stern, Ellie gave a nod and exhaled looking through the other items she packed into the tote bag. She responded getting his attention to several baby items she pulled out of the bag, “Here are several things you can use for her. It’s a little starting pack I’ve gathered for you.”
Dylan nodded offering his daughter, “Got it. You want to hold her for a bit?”
Ellie took the tote bag and placed it on the floor in front of him. She nodded accepting Hayley into her arms gently. Holding the bottle up, she held it for the newborn as Hayley suckling the bottle. Dylan took the bag and looked through it. He exclaimed after inspecting it, “That is a lot.”
Ellie nodded caressing the newborn in her arms, “Yes it is,” she turned to her son and spoke getting his attention, “Niall, would you like to see your baby cousin?”
Niall looked up from his gamepad for a moment. He nodded touching his baby cousin on her head and smiled looked at Dylan, “Hayley is a cool name, Uncle. Will I be seeing her often?”
Dylan nodded, “Thanks. Yeah, of course.”
Niall smiled and looked at Hayley once more touching her baby soft skin. He shifted in his seat and returned to his game as Ellie moved the baby to a better position on her arm while she held the bottle for her. Looking at Dylan, she inquired, “Who’s the mother?”
Dylan responded hesitating for a moment, “Ah that I can’t tell you.”
Changing her tone for a brief moment, she inquired sharply, “Why not?”
He shrugged replying, “Because you would take upon yourself to do the right thing. I know you more than you know yourself, little sister. You only know her as the grounder, that’s it. Don’t even think about asking the doctor either. I will instruct him to not tell you because of doctor patient confidentiality. By not telling you or anyone her name, her secret will stay safe with me. This is why she contacted me and I will not betray her confidence. Not unless she allows me to tell you as well.”
Ellie scowled at him feeling anger. The doctor came in as they looked at him. He spoke, “I will have to take Hayley for a second. I apologize. I need to check her over again. There might be complications coming that I need to be aware of.”
As the doctor took the child carefully, Dylan inquired with concern, “Is everything alright doctor?”
He nodded assuring him, “It might be nothing, but it is only a precaution. Don’t worry. I will let you know once I find out anything.”
Ellie scowled at Dylan. She was still holding the bottle. Dylan looked at her and gulped under her stare. “Hmph,” she grunted thrusting the bottle into his arms and took the tote bag. Looking through it, she took her phone and stood.
Dylan spoke up, “Ellie, come on. It’s nothing personal.”
She ignored him and turned to speak to her son, “Come on Niall. Let’s go.”
“Yes mom,” Niall responded putting aside his gamepad. Standing on the chair, he stretched out his arms. Ellie took his body and grunted lifting him onto her arms. He wrapped himself around her and rested against her shoulder as she dialed her phone. Placing the phone on her ear, she walked away from Dylan.
Dylan exhaled a sigh sitting there holding the bottle. Ellie stopped by the doorway and turned to face him. She inquired sharply getting his attention, “You coming or what?”
“Yeah, I’m coming,” Dylan responded taking the bag and placing the bottle into it. He got up just as Ellie turned away military style and marched out. Shouldering the straps of the bag onto his shoulder, he ran out to catch up with her speeding military pace.
Niall was seated in the small waiting room near the nursery section of the hospital. He looked up for a moment to see his uncle and his mother standing in front of the glass. Blinking with silence, he returned to his game and become engrossed into it. The sound of his game was audible.
Ellie stood straight and tall in her five feet nine inches in front of the window with one of her arms behind her back and her feet spaced. Her other hand held a phone to her ear that she was holding to listen. Dylan stood with his arms crossed and watching the window. His height was five feet and eleven inches. He was concerned for his daughter. The tote bag was on the floor between them.
Turning to his sister, he listened to her phone conversation. Ellie nodded responding, “Yes sir. I’ll be right there as soon as I find someone to look after my son.”
Ellie turned off her phone with an exhale and placed her arm behind her back. She turned as Dylan spoke, “Your base commander? You have to go?”
Ellie nodded, “Yeah. Its last minute, but I have to ship out with the rest of my squadron to Titan. I don’t know the duration of my deployment, but I’ll let you know.”
Her brother responded, “You know, I can watch Niall.”
She shook her head replying, “Not until I speak with the boy’s father. You already have your hands full with Hayley,” she paused as her phone rang again. Looking at it, she raised her eyebrow and spoke raising her forefinger, “Speak of the devil. Excuse me.”
Dylan sighed watching her walk away. He listened when she spoke into the phone, “Louis. Thanks for calling back.”
Dylan turned back to refocus his attention to the window. Beyond it were small baby beds for the newborns. A nurse came into the room with Hayley and carefully placed her into one of the beds. He had a grim, concerned expression.
Ellie returned to his side and exhaled crossing her arms looking at him. She spoke getting his attention, “He called and said he couldn’t come out of his business meeting. He’s on a last minute trip and won’t be back for some time. Guess what? You get to watch Niall. You got this?”
Dylan nodded and responded, “I got this. Don’t worry. I can multitask like a pro, remember?”
“Right,” Ellie muttered with a sigh shaking her head. Keeling down on her knee, she took her laces and untied it. Straightening it out, she tightened her military boot tying the laces. Switching to her other knee, she did the same with her other boot. Taking the tote bag, she looked through it. Picking out a doll of a pro fighter, she stood and handed it to Dylan.
Dylan looked at it and her. He raised his eyebrow objectively, “A Dylan Taylor Pro Fighter doll based on my image? Where did you get that? I thought the fire destroyed them all.”
Ellie shrugged and responded, “Clearance sale. What fire? Anyways, thought I would pick out a doll for your daughter to have, so why not an image of you.”
“Right,” Dylan sighed and muttered taking the doll in the likeness of him and crossed his arms while looking out the window again.
Dropping the tote, Ellie turned and walked toward her son. She approached and knelt before him speaking to get his attention, “Niall.”
Niall looked up from his game and wondered, “Yes mom?”
Ellie responded keeping her stern expression, “I need to get back to base and I don’t know how long I’ll be gone. Your father is away on a business trip for about a month. Uncle Dylan will look after you. Behave yourself.”
Niall nodded and responded, “I got it mom. Be safe,” he came close and kissed her on the cheek. Ellie wrapped her arms around her son and gave him a hug. She embraced him for a moment before pulling back to stand up. Taking her military cap from the back of her pocket, she unrolled it and placed it on her crown. The soldier marched out without giving her brother any notice as she exited the hospital.
Niall watched his Uncle observe the window alone while cross armed. Putting away his gamepad, he got up and walked over to him. Tugging at his shirt, he spoke getting his attention, “Uncle.”
Dylan turned to him. He exclaimed kneeling down to his level and inquired, “Hey bud. You wanna see your cousin?”
Niall nodded. Dylan picked him up and hoisted him around his arm. Positioning him to sit on his arm, Dylan pointed at the window responding, “You see her? She’s just resting.”
Niall watched where he was pointing her out and inquired, “Is she okay?”
Dylan smiled to cover his concern and replied, “Yeah. She’s just resting. The doctor’s checking her over. She’s fine. We’ll be home soon.”
The doctor approached them spoke getting both Dylan and Niall’s attention, “Hayley is fine. We caught it in time. She’s just resting. To be sure, I would like to keep her under observation overnight. I will let you know when it’s safe to take her home.”
Dylan sighed. He nodded responding as the doctor turned away, “Thanks doctor.” Picking up the tote bag, he placed the strap around his shoulder and shifted Niall in his arm as he replied pointing at the window, “Looks like we’re leaving. Wave goodbye to your cousin.”
Niall waved as Dylan carried him away from the nursery to head home. Niall wrapped his arm around his uncle’s shoulder and watched as the window of the nursery became smaller. It disappeared as Dylan made the turn toward the exit to leave the hospital.
Nine months later
Hayley stumbled awkwardly flailing her thick arms. She wore her training diapers. Giggling, she waddled down the hallway with her short torso. Her small pointed canines showed. Curly brown hair filled her crown. Her body was thick with extra muscles and a larger upper torso. She looked big for a nine month old toddler. Stumbling, she lost her balance when she entered through the doorway into the small workout room. Getting on her hands and feet, she crawled toward a dumbbell while bending her knees.
The dumbbell was on the floor along with several toys sectioned in different areas of the room. Sitting before the small dumbbell, she picked it up with both of her hands with effort. It was only five pounds. She grunted pushing it up. Dylan entered the room and exclaimed as Hayley looked at him. She giggled with excitement as he spoke, “Ah, there you are! What are you doing in here, little monkey? You know it’s not time for a workout yet.”
Hayley giggled lifting the five pound over her head. Dylan rushed toward her to grab the dumbbell just before she lost control of it. Taking it away, he lifted her just as she squealed with laughter. He hoisted her over his head and tossed her in the air before catching her. Placing her on his arm, he approached the replicator and paused as he thought for a bit. She looked at him curiously with her wide open amber eyes.
Dylan looked at her unusual eyes and responded keying in a few commands on the materializer, “I think it’s time to upgrade the weight of your toy. What do you think? Five and a half pounds? Six?”
Hayley cooed looking at the machine and placed her hand into her mouth. Dylan finalized the option as he responded when a monkey doll appeared, “Five it is. Here you go. One monkey doll furnished to its seams with weighted fabric and small beads that determine the weight of this toy. You know, you didn’t like your first toy because it was too light for you aside from the fact that it was in the image of me. Now I get it. Ever since you picked up your first two pound dumbbell, the both of you became inseparable. You’re one odd kid.”
Hayley cooed as she took her monkey toy and held it close to her. She wrapped her arm around his neck and hugged him close. Kissing her head, he carried her out of the room. Walking along the long hallway of his house, he approached the large open room with three sections. On his right was the large living room with a den and a fireplace. On his left was the open kitchen. Beside it was the dining room. Niall was seated eating his breakfast.
Niall looked up and spoke, “Hey uncle. You found Hayley.”
Dylan nodded shifting her weight several times to bounce her. She giggle as her father responded, “Yes I did. One funny little monkey. Found her in the weight room along with your toys. You gotta pick em up, kid cause I ain’t picking up after you. She tried to pick up a five pound dumbbell you left on the floor.”
Niall responded, “Oh, sorry Uncle. I’ll pick them up a bit later.”
Dylan replied entering the kitchen, “Appreciate that, bud. Now finish your breakfast.”
Carrying her into the kitchen, he placed her on the counter. Hayley murmured focusing on her monkey toy playing with it. Dylan kissed her on the forehead and turned to check on his breakfast. His omelet was simmering under the heat. Opening the cupboard, he took out a plate and prepped his dish. Niall came in a second after carrying his plate to the sink in the middle of the room where the counter was. Moving around, he walked toward his cousin and responded, “Hey.”
Dylan turned around and approached Niall. Grabbing him by his torso, he hoisted him up, “Up you go, you want to sit on the counter too?”
He left Niall to tend to his cousin as he touched her toy with curiosity playing with her. Dylan returned to the cupboard and took out a toddler sized cup. He filled it halfway with infant powder in just the right size for Hayley and poured milk. Covering it, he shook it to mix the powder with the milk, grabbed the phone and approached the counter handing the cup to her. Hayley exclaimed taking the cup and drank her formula. She watched Niall play with her monkey toy.
Dylan smiled backing up and held the camera phone in front of him, responding, “Guys. Picture worthy moment here.” Both Niall and Hayley were on the camera of the phone.
Niall looked up and half smiled for the camera as his uncle took the picture. Hayley was still focused on the monkey toy and grabbed it with a grunt. Dylan exhaled and handed him the phone as he responded, “Niall, your mom called just a while ago to check on you. Send her the pic and say hey.”
Niall took the phone and sorted through it to find his mother’s contact number. Dylan picked up Hayley just as she dropped her monkey and started complaining. She grabbed air at her monkey and was getting agitated. Her baby teeth and pointed canines revealed in her distress.
Dylan grabbed the monkey and handed it to her as she calmed down. With the five and a half pound toy on one hand, she rested her head against her father’s chest and drank her formula. Behind him, he heard Niall jump down from the counter and spoke calling his mom while leaving the kitchen.
Approaching the stove, he took a piece of omelet and offered it to his daughter. Taking her mouth out of the mouth piece, she took her first bite and cooed lightly. Turning the stove off, he took the plate and headed outside on the deck. It was a cool breeze. Stopping before the edge of the deck overlooking the mountains where his house was located, he placed the plate on the railing.
Dylan bent down to take out his beer from the cooler. Using the bottle opener below the railing, he popped it open and took a drink. The cap fell into the small cut with the other caps that gathered. Hayley looked out in the mountains as she cuddled into her father’s warm, strong chest. Beyond the mountains was the Grand Canyon. He lived in the territory of the New Republic of Canada.
Behind him was a huge house that he could almost afford on a daily wage. Because of his step mother and his sister’s husband being on elite status, Dylan was able to afford the house. As a pro fighter, it was the house and location he required for his daily workout. It was also nice and private in the middle of the mountains. Taking the fork, he pierced the omelet and fed Hayley more bits of his breakfast. As Hayley opened her baby teeth to eat, the only pointed teeth revealed was her upper and lower baby canines. They were small, pointed shaped like the canines of an animal and growing.
Niall joined him on his side and placed the phone on the railing as he responded, “Mom said she’ll be home soon. Her deployment will be ending tonight and she’ll be here then.”
Niall placed his arms around the second tier of the boards below the railing. Dylan touched his head. Shifting Hayley’s weight on his arm, he replied, “Good. We’ll prepare some kind of welcome back supper for her, bud.”
By afternoon, nighttime came quickly. A door into Dylan’s household opened. Ellie entered and closed the door gently. Her face was stern and unrelenting. She spoke calling out, “Dylan? Niall?” She wore her military uniform and carried her heavy duffle bag by placing it against the wall. Taking her seat, she untied her dirty steel toed military boots. The light patter of footsteps was heard as Niall approached. Ellie stretched her arms as Niall ran to hug her, “Mom, you’re home! Dylan and Hayley fell asleep waiting for you. They already ate but saved a portion for you in the oven.”
Ellie responded placing her finger on her lips, “Good, let’s not make too much noise to wake them up.”
Niall nodded as Ellie removed her military cap and placed it on his head. Her dirty blonde hair was tight in a bun. She picked him up and carried him across the hall toward the living room. Seeing Dylan sleeping on the couch with Hayley resting on his chest while sucking her thumb, Ellie placed Niall down and took the end of the blanket. She recovered him just below Hayley’s neck. Seeing the monkey toy on the floor, she looked at it curiously. Picking it up, she sighed shaking her head and placed it on the table muttering, “Whatever happened to that Dylan Taylor pro fighter doll I got your kid nine months ago?”
Turning around, Ellie stood there watching her brother sleep. After a few moments, she turned and took Niall’s outstretched hand. He started talking when they entered the kitchen, “What did you do when you shipped out, mom? Did you go to Titan?”
Stopping before the oven, she knelt down and opened it to take her meal. It was lasagna which was her favorite welcome home food. Her brother always cooked those for her whenever she comes home from being deployed. She responded, “Yes I did, Niall, but it’s classified. I’m not supposed to talk about it.”
Squeezing her hand, Niall protested, “But mom-“
Ellie widened her eyes and looked down placing her finger on her lips quieting him, “Shh, not too loud.”
“Sorry,” Niall muttered following her. Ellie took a beer from the fridge before going into the dining room table and sat down. He tried again as Ellie took her first bite, “I bet you killed lots of bad people.”
Ellie scoffed with half amusement in her stern expression. Taking her drink of beer, she responded shaking her head, “Nothing like that, Niall. You have an overactive imagination. No, it was just a minor revolt, nothing major. I stayed longer because I was ordered to scout for a bit and to hold position.”
Watching his mom eat her cooked pasta, he responded moving to kiss her on the cheek, “Well, I’m glad you’re home safe. Are you going to stay for longer?”
Ellie responded with a shrug, “We’ll see how it goes. Your father wants us back home by tomorrow, so you better rest up. I’ll come a bit later.” She exhaled, reached over and bopped the rim of her military cap he was wearing.Touching her hat to be sure it was snug on his head, Niall exclaimed getting out of his seat and responded, “Okay, nite!” He took off softly toward his bedroom as Ellie ate her supper. It was quiet and easy, the way she liked it.