If you haven’t ready BKS, turn away now!
“I don’t care. Use it.”
“All I did was open the door and—”
“You guys,” I interrupted with a sigh, cutting off Kase and Key’s bickering. “Baby, you can’t force everyone to bathe in hand sanitizer every time they want to hold Lia.”
Key shot Kase a triumphant smirk. “See—”
“But,” I continued, turning my attention to Key, “do you know how many people touch that door handle? Plus, you were drumming on the counter out there, broodily flirting your way to more jello. Wash your hands.”
“Told ya so,” Kase muttered, winking at me.
Once Key was sufficiently sanitary, Kase allowed him to enter the hospital room fully.
With a huge grin I rarely saw, Key ducked and kissed my cheek before plucking Lia from my arms. “Hello, princess. It’s your favorite Uncle Key. Remember that. Your favorite. I heard Uncle Jake was trying to fill your head with lies, but you’re too smart to fall for that.”
“You know she’s only like six hours old, right?” I asked.
“That’s why I’ve gotta start teaching her now.”
When Lia began to fuss, Kase reached for her. “Apparently she disagrees with you.”
“Nah.” Key smoothly shifted so her body was upright, her head against his chest. Rocking back and forth, he patted her back lightly.
Her cries stopped instantly. Opening her still goop covered eyes, brilliant blues looked toward her dada.
“I think that answers the question of who the favorite is,” my husband boasted.
“It’s a good thing we’re already in the hospital.” I carefully sat up and grabbed the giant coffee Key had brought me. “Your ego has to be nearing dangerous levels.”
Fists to the bed, Kase leaned down so we were face to face. “My sexy as fuck wife became a damned super hero and gave me a beautiful baby girl. What’s not to be proud of?”
“Good point,” I whispered, trying to hide my grin. “If I’m a super hero, does that mean I can finally get out of this flippin’ bed?”
Halia Rose Teo inherited none of her father’s patience. At just under thirty weeks, she’d decided it was time to get the show on the road. I’d spent a few days in the hospital, followed by seven weeks of strict bed rest.
Since we’d just closed on our new house, we didn’t even have a bed for me to rest in. I’d been completely banned from the house during the painting phase, spending a few days at my mom’s.
If I’d thought Kase was bad, he was nothing compared to the triple threat of Mom, Hads, and Abbey. My allotted time out of bed had been strictly monitored, not that I’d push it anyway. My diet, on the other hand, had been a little tougher to swallow.
There’d been a distinct lack of caffeine, cake, and anything overly salty. That meant my main pregnancy cravings, extra spicy Slim Jims and peanut butter M&Ms, became forbidden fruit.
Instead, I’d had a full supply of healthy foods with zero spice.
And even less flavor.
When the paint fumes were gone, I’d gone home to a place I’d never even spent the night in. Kase and the guys had moved everything into the appropriate area, though little was unpacked or setup. Instead, Kase had bought a ridiculously comfy futon, moving it from room to room so I could give my input on what went where.
To keep me from going cabin fever crazy, we’d had our friends over for a game night. Lia must’ve decided she was done with feeling left out, and instead aimed for a dramatic entrance.
A surprisingly uncomplicated labor later, Halia was born. Even three weeks early, she was an adorably chubby eight and a half pounds.
“You feeling up to standing, ipo?” Kase looked me over.
I nodded. “I’m supposed to page the nurse.”
“I’ll just show Lia this, uhh, corner,” Key whispered, turning to give us privacy when the nurse came in.
After a million mile waddle like an old lady, I was able to use the bathroom and clean up a little. Returning to the bed, I was actually happy to climb back in.
“Hey, baby hoarder, can I have my daughter back?” I asked.
Clearly reluctant, Key passed Lia back. “Since she’s moving her mouth around for something I just can’t give her, I’m guessing that’s a good idea.”
Situating her to eat, I leaned back as Key and Kase chatted. Lia ate for a few minutes before falling back to sleep. I shifted her upright, patting her back as I fought a yawn.
“I’m gonna take off,” Key said, tilting his head toward the door. “Let you two rest.”
“It’s okay.” I smiled. “Mom and Hadley should be here soon, at least stay—”
“Rest.” With another cheek kiss for Lia and I, Key left, snagging my jello as he went.
My heavy lids started to lower, but before I could fall asleep, someone in the hall started talking a mile a minute.
“Low Low!” I heard seconds before Hadley crashed in like she was filming an action movie. “Can I hold her? I’ve been telling everyone at school that I’m an aunt! And they’re all super jealous. I’ve been dancing in my chair the whole day, counting down.” Finally stopping to take a breath, Hadley’s eyes landed on Lia. Her face grew red as she blinked back tears.
“Hads—” I started.
“She’s so little,” she whispered. “Tiny. But so beautiful.” Grinning, she showed off her pink and purple braces. “So can I hold her? Before you ask, I washed my hands and used sanitizer before coming in. Mom said I’m so clean, I could go perform surgery.”
I scooched over and patted the bed. “Then climb on up.” Guiding her hold, I passed Lia over.
Hadley whispered to her, kissing her hatted head and studying her tiny features. Looking back to me, her eyes filled with tears even as her smile threatened to split her face in two. “She’s the prettiest baby I’ve ever seen. My friend May has a sister that looked like a monkey alien when she was born. But Halia looks like a perfect doll. And her name even starts with an H!”
After a rapid series of flashes, Mom put her camera down and dropped to sit in a chair near the bed. “Okay, Nana’s turn.”
Hadley cuddled Lia closer. “You had a turn already.”
Mom and Piper had stayed with me until active labor began and the pain became too intense to talk through. Once Lia was born and checked over, they’d returned from the waiting room for a short visit.
“My first grandchild and I’m limited to only one hold?” Mom shook her head. “I don’t think so. Now hand her over.”
“Fine,” Hadley said, drawing the word out with a sigh. Kissing Lia’s head, she reluctantly loosened her protective hold.
Kase picked up Lia, passing her to my mom.
“Can you do me a favor—” Mom started before Kase sat on the floor in front of her. She smiled down at him, whispering, “Thanks.”
“No problem.” Kase rested his arms on his legs, almost looking casual and relaxed.
From my view on the bed, I could see the way his forearm flexed, the muscles tensing every time my mom moved.
Because of a recent MS flare-up, Mom was on a high dose of IV steroids, nerve pain medicine, and a load of other injections and pills. She was already prone to muscle weakness and shaking, but both were amplified with the treatment. She’d been hesitant to even hold Lia earlier in the day, only relenting when Kase agreed to sit in front of her.
I picked up her camera, snapping pictures. Leaning back, I tilted my head to the side so I could watch them.
Kase grinned at something Mom said, his eyes bright and happy. He ran his hand through his short hair, though it did nothing to tame the disarray.
After experiencing firsthand how much babies loved to clutch and yank anything they could get their chubby hands on, Kase had casually brought up cutting his dreads. With the weight of his hair, it constantly being pulled back would put a strain on his head and neck.
I’d refused. Vehemently.
Then when I’d forgotten to pull mine back in a ponytail, and a baby had given it a good, hard tug, I’d relented.
It’d been a shock to see him with short hair. So much so, in fact, I’d dropped my plate of food when he walked into the kitchen.
But he looked flippin’ sexy.
The short hair showed off his strong jaw. His blue eyes still looked intense and hauntingly beautiful.
As he grinned up at Mom, I noticed how much more of his side profile I could see, including his full lips.
I wanted to kiss him.
But my body wanted sleep more.
Blinking, my eyes stayed closed as I drifted off to sleep.
I’d spent four years trying to give Harlow heaven. Trying to make her life a dream.
Looking down at Halia, her tiny head cradled in my hand, I realized I’d never come close to giving Harlow all she’d given me.
But that didn’t mean I wasn’t gonna bust my ass to try.
I glanced over at Harlow as she slept. She’d crashed during Helena and Hadley’s visit, waking shortly after they left. After a quick dinner and walk, she’d climbed back into bed and fell asleep, only stirring to feed Lia.
The nurse had come by to take Lia to the nursery for the night, but I wasn’t ready to let her go. With the calm quiet, I had time to savor.
Harlow’s face was mostly hidden by the blanket she’d insisted on bringing from the house. Her wild red hair was spread all over, her freckles darker from the pregnancy hormones.
A fuckin’ super hero.
Carefully removing Lia’s hat, I ran my hand gently across her mess of red hair. The soft, fine pieces stuck out everywhere, wild like her Mama’s.
When she arched and moved her head, I shifted to bounce her back to sleep, but she didn’t cry.
Instead, her bright blue eyes opened, meeting mine.
After finding out we were having a girl, I’d instantly shot down Harlow’s suggestion of naming her Willa. I’d always love my sister, and had long ago made peace with her, but she didn’t deserve the honor of having a niece she’d never meet named after her.
Finally, on some obscure name website, Harlow had found Halia.
Hawaiian, it meant ‘remembrance of a loved one’.
With as much loss as we’d both faced, it was perfect.
And, as Hadley pointed out, it even started with an H.
“Hello kaikamahine,” I whispered to my daughter, tightening her swaddle like she was a burrito. “Not a big fan of you having the timing of your mama, but I’m happy you’re here. Love you. Love your mama. My moe’uhane keeps getting better and better.”
Slowly, Lia closed her eyes.
“Love you, too,” Harlow whispered from the bed. Rolling onto her side, she wrapped her own blanket burrito tight. “I don’t know if I ever want to go through that pain again. But watching you hold her, my ovaries are already screaming at me to keep giving you babies. You know what that means?”
“It’s a good thing we bought the bigger house?”
She shook her head through her yawn. “It’s proof I’ve lost my mind from exhaustion. I think it’ll be better if you handle all the night time diaper changes.”
I laughed, careful not to wake the baby. “Deal.”
“Good,” she said, closing her eyes. “‘Cause she’s gonna poop soon. Have fun with that.”
Less than a minute later, my wife’s even breathing signaled she was asleep.
And less than five minutes after that, the loud noise and following funky smell signaled she was also right.
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