The Baby Game:  Section Eightteen

Fifty One:

As the car slid into a spot in the parking garage Lance took a deep breath.  It seemed like just minutes ago that he was pulling in from the hospital the night before, but it had been almost twelve hours and now he was back.  "We're going to walk into the side entrance.  Everyone out front saw the car and I'm sure will be there when we take Roselyn home, but we'll slip in from the side so that you can go see her in peace."

"You don't have to explain it to me like I'm a baby."

"I'm not," he said with force, "I'm trying to explain things to you so you don't freak out.  It's crazy out there and I know how you are--"  He glared at her.  "I should have just brought her home.  If Melinda hadn't made such a big deal about this then I wouldn't even have to have BOTHERED you about this."

"Stop it."  Her hand went out and touched his forearm as she sucked in a huge breath of air, "I'm sorry."

He nodded seeing that that she wasn't in the mood to fight.  "We're going to go out the front on the way back to the car.  We'll have Roselyn in the baby carrier, but they'll want to take some pictures.  I know it's horrible for us to have to go through this, but it's better to just get it over with."  He pulled his keys from the ignition.  "If we take pictures now it'll keep them from following us later."

"What about security?" she asked.

"We'll have Todd and Loni with us this afternoon and I'm going to have Eric on call for you and me for a while."  A smile cracked his lips.  "He can't wait to meet Roselyn."

"I can't wait to see her either."

He was shocked at this news.  She had been slow getting up that morning, slow to get dressed and basically had dragged her feet while he'd gone out to put the baby seat in the car.  Now she was smiling and happy about it all.  Something was up with her, but he wasn't about to start that conversation.  "She's been waiting for you too."

They walked together to the NICU, Lance carrying the baby carrier in one hand and holding her hand in the other.  They washed up side by side, Lance showing her how to get everything done before they could go and see Roselyn.

The nurses were gathered around and the NICU doctor came by to tell them a few last instructions before they moved towards the incubator.  "Do you want to do the honors?"

Lance moved towards the incubator and lifted up the top.  He found Roselyn lying on her back almost smiling up at him with sleepy eyes.  All her tubes and monitors had been removed and the velcro patches had been washed off her temples.  He smiled down at her little pink beanie hat.  "Hi Roselyn."  His voice was softer and higher pitched as he leaned down to cradle her up in his arms.

The nurses oohed and awwed as he settled her into his arms.  He watched her for a moment to make sure that she wouldn't cry then looked for Serena.  "Serena come here."

She approached him slowly as if he was carrying a wild animal in his arms instead of a baby.  When she got close enough to them she reached a hand out and let Roselyn's tiny fingers curl around her bigger one.  "Hi sweetie."

Lance's breathing was eased as she put her fingers over the girl's nose and cheeks.  She played the part well, but he could tell that she was nervous and probably a little more than scared.

^V^V^V^V^V^V^V^V^

Her eyes flew from the nurses to his and back to Roselyn as a wheelchair was pushed into the room.  Lance motioned for Serena could take Roselyn from her.  There was a moment of pure terror that came across her as she felt the full weight of the baby in her arms.  She had known that she would have to hold her soon, but she wasn't sure that she should be having all these people stare at her while she did it.  She needed some time to get used to the idea, but it was going to be a crash course today.

She knew that they needed to walk out of there together, but even with the little girl in her hands for a few moments she had the horrible feeling that she wanted to push her away.  Everything went away and all she could see breath and feel was this little girl in her arms.  The little girl was curling against her and leaning closer instead of staying away and that was making her skin crawl.  She didn't want this helpless baby anywhere near her.  She knew whatever happened it would end in disaster.

"Are you ready?"

Serena wanted to hand her back to Lance.  She glared at him and he smiled back and nervously motioned for her to sit down in the chair.

"Lance?"

"It's ok," He put a hand on her shoulder after she settled into the chair.  He moved away from her and handed the car keys to Todd who had appeared in the room.  "Wanna grab the car and we'll come down in a minute."

Serena wouldn't have noticed if Santa Clause had shown up.  Her attention was on the little girl in her arms and the horrible urge to scream that wasn't going away.

Todd nodded.  "Loni will walk down with you to the lobby."

Serena turned her attention back to Roselyn.  The baby had her eyes closed.  "Lance?"

Hearing the sudden change of pitch of her voice he came over and looked down at her.  "What happened?"

"She-her-she's got her eyes closed."

He leaned and kissed her temple.  "Sugar she's sleeping.  She's gonna do that a lot these next few days.  It'll be ok."

Serena looked up at the nurses and at Loni and they were all staring at her.  She didn't like that feeling.  She knew that she'd been ridiculous to ask about her eyes being closed, but she was paranoid that she had done something wrong since she'd had her eyes open when Lance had been holding her.

"It's gonna be ok," he said to her leaning close to her.  "We'll take her downstairs and we'll get home and I think we all may need to take a nap."

Moments later they were moving down the hall and to the elevator.  She knew she must be paranoid because it felt to her as if all eyes were on her.  Of course everyone would be looking and intersted in someone taking their baby home from NICU because it was such a joyeous event, but for Serena it was as if the whole world knew that she hadn't been there since her baby was born and the were all wondering why she hadn't been strong enough to face the gentle baby in her arms.

She pulled Roselyn closer to her and readjusted the blanket around her.  To the naked eye it would have looked like she was caring for her new daughter, but in reality it was Serena trying to calm her own nerves.  Her biggest fear was that she might drop Roselyn to the floor.  She felt like every little movement of the wheel chair she was sitting in was making Roselyn slip from her hands.   She wanted to ask Lance to put Roselyn in the carrier and to hold her himself.  She thought that they'd agreed on that, but she knew that she couldn't ask him something like that if all these people were around.  

The front of the hospital was a barage of newspaper and magazine photographers as well as a few television cameras.  Lance did all the talking as they left, mentioning to the cameras that Serena and he wanted to thank everyone for their good wishes, wanted to thank them for the presents and explained that the gifts would be going to the Orlando Ronald McDonald house.  He tried to make things as quick as possible, but for Serena it felt like forever until they went back to the car.

"Can we go?" she asked finally looking up at everyone from the chair she was in.  They were all taking pictures and Roselyn had started to stir in her sleep and she didn't want her to wake up.

"We need to get Roselyn home everyone."  He smiled and waved then pushed the chair closer to where Todd had opened up the door for them to get into the car.

Lance settled Roslyn in her seat and instead of getting in the front, held a hand out to Serena to help her up into the back passenger side seat.  He moved around and sat on the far side of the baby carrier while Todd and Loni got into the front seats.  As they drove away he let out a sigh and Serena turned her head to look out the window.  Her arms strangely ached to hold Serena, but she held her arms across her middle and tried not to cry.  She didn't want to feel that way, didn't want to feel any sort of love for the little girl.  She had never even seen James and had lost him and it had broken her heart.  If she got to know Roselyn and something happened to her she knew that she'd never recover from it.


Fifty Two:

When the car pulled into the garage Lance opened his door and reached over to unhook the carrier that he'd strapped into the car and had been using as Roselyn's car seat.  Serena was looking out her window still not seeming to notice that the car was stopped.  Loni looked back into the back seat and so did Todd, looking at her and him before they made a move to get out of the car.  Lance waved off their curious looks and pulled the carrier carefully out.  He moved it onto the seat so that he could stand up straight then held it steady in his hand as he moved around the edge of the car.  He walked into the house not looking back to see if Serena was coming in or not.  Todd and Loni seemed to be confused.

"Come on in guys," he said with a sigh.  "If she's gonna sit out there in la la land then let her be.  She'll get tired of sitting there after a while and will come in."

"You sure?" Todd asked.

"Yeah," he said, "Believe me.  She'll be in the house in a while, probably will eat an apple or something then will head up to our room and go to bed.  She's been a zombie the last few days so I've let her be that way."

"That doesn't sound too healthy."

"It's not, but I'm tired of pushing her.  She and I fought last week and haven't spoken really since."  The baby carrier was set on the kitchen counter and he moved the blanket a little so that it was out of Roselyn's face then stood leaning against the counter while he kept one hand on the carrier so that it wouldn't fall off the counter.

Loni was frowing, playing his natural fatherly role with Lance.  He had always been the babysitter over the guys and had just broadened his circle to include everyone else in their lives.  "Has she talked to anyone about that?"

"She talks to Kelly," he said with a shrug, "I guess."

"You need to talk to her," Todd said.

"You need to butt out of my business," Lance said with a loud voice then looked at Roselyn to make sure he hadn't disturbed her.  "I've tried to talk to her.  It doesn't get me anywhere so I've stopped yelling.  My blood pressure is high enough without all the yelling and crying from her."

"Blood pressure?" Loni laughed, "You don't know what blood pressure is.  Try dealing with a thousand fans that want your shirt!"

"I'm serious," he said, "We've been stressing each other out so I decided to just leave it alone.  I've got a baby to take care of and I'm not going to walk around my house and try to spare her feelings.  Either she'll wake up and realize that we have a child to take care of  or she'll depress herself to death.  At this point I don't give a damn."

The noise of the door shutting made them look over and Serena was standing in the doorway with tears in her eyes.  The door slamming had woken up Roselyn so Lance pulled her from the carrier and held her against his chest a little as he moved across the room to find his way up the stairs.  He knew that rocking her would make her stop crying so he went into Roselyn's room and sat down.  He let the other people in the house disappear and concentrated on Roselyn for a while.

Aftter a cough or two he moved her a little in his arms to the most comfortbale postion and began to humm to her.  The rock was a steady rthymn and he tried not to push the chair until it would squeak.

^V^V^V^V^V^

It was almost dark before Serena made it to the second floor of the house to find Lance lying on their bed with Roselyn curled up next to him on the bed reading a book.  If it had been the normal family unit she would have asked how they were and if she'd missed anything good while she was gone, but seeing that it wasn't normal and she wasn't really even family with them any more she cleared her throat and went to change into pajamas.

When she returned from the bathroom Lance was still reading the book, or at least he looked to be, but the book had fallen from his hands into his lap.  She took a breath and held back tears.  It was a hallmark card picture waiting to be taken.  His right hand was on Roselyn's leg almost making sure that she didn't go anywhere while his other hand held the book against her leg lazily.

"Are you coming to bed?" he asked.

She jumped and licked her lips.

"Don't say it," he said, "Don't say a word.  Don't apologize, hell don't even take a breath.  Just come over here and lay down with us and for once don't say a word."

She started to say something.

"No," he said, "I'm not going to repeat myself."

She nodded and moved across the room and was about to crawl onto the bed on the far side of him, leaving Roselyn between them.

"Come here," he said and moved a little.  He put his book down and reached to pull her against his chest.  He took a few deep breaths and kissed her temple.  "Just sit here with me ok?"

She nodded and let tears run down her cheek as he moved his hand away from Roselyn's leg and held onto her hand.

"Does--"

"Sugar shhh," he said.

"I just wanted to know how long she'll sleep for."

"Right now she's up to about three hours in a row.  She'll wake up for about a half hour or so then go back to sleep, but usually when she's awake she's hungry so she cries a little."

"Is she ok?" she asked, "I mean--"

"She's going to be fine Sugar," he said with a soft voice.  "She's gonna be just fine.  She just needs some love and a little time and soon she'll be like every other baby you've ever seen."

"She's too tiny," she said, "I think we should have left her at the hospital a little longer."

"She's fine.  The doctor said that she'll be fine.  We just have to keep her home for a while and away from germs and stuff, but she'll be ok."

"Germs?"

"Her lungs and her body aren't ready to be around little kids or anything.  I know that the guys will want to come over, but I want to wait about a week or so before we take her out to visit.  Brianna is gonna want to be over here, but we can't let her.  With her being around kids at school she might give Roselyn a cold."

"I don't know if I can do this."

"It's not going to be that hard," he said, "I won't let it get too hard for you."  He was starting to sound very sleepy.

"What about you?" she whispered into his chest.

"Hmm?"

"Nothing," she said louder and reached over to touch Roselyn's leg.  She was in a diaper and a t-shirt with socks on and had curled her back up against Lance almost like a little puppy would, as if she needed that touch to keep her stable.



Fifty Three:


"Will you listen for her while I take a shower?" Lance asked setting the monitor next to her side of the bed.  "Just--"  He sighed, "Just yell for me if she needs something."

She hated the way he looked at her these days.  Roselyn had been home for almost a week now and was doing great, but they as a couple weren't.  He had gotten to the point of ignoring her unless he needed her to listen out for Roselyn in the other room, but even then he seemed to rush through whatever he was doing so that he could get back to her before something would happen, as if he didn't trust Serena enough to take care of their child.

Turning his back to her he pulled out everything in his pockets and set them on the dresser across the room.  Her eyes searched over the contents carefully.  A set of keys, some change, a pack of gum and his wallet lay out in plain view, neatly lined up, even though he hadn't paused a moment to think about where they had been set down.

He unbuckled the buckle on his jeans and started to undo the fly, but when his hands hit a certain point he looked into the mirror on top of the dresser and glared at her.  She'd been watching his back and he caught eye contact with her before a frown came over his lips.  He quickly twisted the buttons back into postion, and walked into the bathroom catching his door to close it with his hand as he went.

It was clear to her the nature of their relationship now.  They were living together, in the strictest sense of the word.  They weren't a couple, more like roommates now, roommates that could barely stand to be in the same room together.

When the door was shut most of the way closed she watched through the crack as he stripped out of his clothes then moved to step into the shower.  She hated the fact that he would close her off like that.  It was one thing to be upset at her, but treating her like a stranger seemed the hardest part to handle.

She lay in bed for a while watching the screen, but her eyes kept moving to the objects on the dresser.  She'd been watching him the last few days and there was something in that wallet that was keeping his attention that he'd been very careful to not let her see.  She didn't want to feel that paranoid feeling that came with that so she moved from the bed and decided to see what was in there.  She'd been suspecting a few weeks ago that he'd met someone new.  He would always be on the phone or talking to
someone and would immediately hang up when she came in the room.  It wasn't hard to see how strange behavior like that would make her think the worst of things.

The few steps across the room seemed to take an eternity.  She stood there in front of the dresser for a moment and looked towards the bathroom door in the reflection of the mirror to make sure that Lance wasn't going to come out there and find her snooping.  She didn't have the patience for that kind of a conversation at the moment and she knew that if she started one it would only end in disaster.

Her hand shook with nervousness as she moved it carefully to pick up the wallet.  She didn't know what she was expecting to happen, but she almost thought there would be an alarm on it and that it would make this horrible noise if she went ot pick it up.  Lance had a thing for alarms now.  He had one on the house, one on the car, had the baby monitor with him twenty four seven and had even gotten one of those alarms put on the pool so if anyone touched the water a sharp sound would fill the air.  All the
alarms were supposed to be to help them stay safe, but now Serena was feeling like a prisoner in her own home.

The sound of Roselyn babbling to herself in the other room came out of the baby monitor on the night stand making her jump.  She'd been hearing her before, but ignoring the high pitched words until she shrieked.  Serena almost dropped the wallet., but took a deep breath and waiting for another wail before she went to get Lance to check on her.  When a tiny laugh filled the room Serena let her breath out and started to open the wallet.

Her fingers rummaged through a few dollar bills.  He had fourteen dollars in his wallet, tucked between a stack of credit cards that would make a normal person drool over.  She moved back a few pictures, mostly of his sister and his parents and then found the small baby picture tucked behind a picture of Stacey.  He'd been looking at this one often.  The sides of the little picture, a baby wrapped up in a blanket still in the emergency room, was folded down a little ways and she could see that it was already starting to seem not as crisp as it had been when it had been fresh from the developers.

The little squinting baby was in the middle of a cry, but the picture was clear.  Serena had seen babies before, but it seemed strange to think that this little one was hers.  It hadn't really hit her yet that she was actually a mother.  She'd been in the house with Roselyn the same amount of time that Lance had bee, but she felt like he was more of a father than she was a mother.  She didn't have that need to be with Roselyn, didn't have the worries that he seemed to have.  She would have naturally worried about the bigger issues, but Lance seemed to have Roselyn on his mind twenty four hours a day.  Even in his sleep he seemed to worry about her.  Lately when she'd woken up in the middle of the night she'd seen the worried expression still on his face.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

She dropped the wallet to the floor, but kept the picture in her hand.  She whipped around and glared at him.

Before she could say another word he was across the room, holding one hand along the edge of the towel he was wearing while he reached for the picture with the other hand.  "What are you doing with this?"

"Nothing."  She didn't let go.  Her hand curled around the edges and held on tight when he tried to grab it away.  Tug of war wasn't her style, but she wanted some answers as to why he was getting so upset over the picture.

His eyes moved to her hand.  "Let go Serena."

"No," she said, "You let go.  It's not like you can't walk into the other room and see her you know."

"Serena," he pleaded, "Let go.  You're going to rip--"

As the words left his mouth the sound of the paper ripping filled the air.  It might have just been a whisper of a sound, but it stopped everything in the room.  Even Roselyn at the other end of the baby monitor was quiet for a moment.

"Damn it," Lance swore and pulled the ripped end out of her hands.

She reached for it, trying to help put the pieces back together, but he pushed her hands away.  "Haven't you done enough damage for one day."

"I was trying to fix--"

"You were trying to just destroy whatever else is around you.  You've done well doing that to our relationship, but this wasn't something I thought you'd do."

"Why the hell do you care?" she asked, "It's not like you're going to see her in a few minutes anyway.  Hell you spend a million hours with her a day anyway.  Hell you're obsessive about her.  You don't let her alone for a whole minute during the day."

"At least I spend time with her."

"What's the obsession?" she asked, "Why the hell are you carrying this--"  She grabbed the pieces out of his hands and ripped them into smaller pieces leaving the picture now in eight or ten pieces instead of two pieces. "--she's less an twenty feet away.  Why the hell do you need this with you all the time."

"IT WASN'T ROSELYN," Lance said grabbing up the pieces that had fallen onto the floor.  "It was JAMES."  His eyes filled with tears as he moved towards the bed to put the pieces out on the bedspread.  His hands moved quickly trying to put the pieces back together again.  "Did you have to ruin everything?  You've done enough already.  This was the one shred of my son and you had to rip it up just like you're ripping this family apart.  I can't believe--"

"I'll--"  She turned towards the door and started towards it.  Her heart was breaking in two as she heard him start to cry.  He was mumbling something to the picture almost as if James was lying on the bed rather than just the pieces of the picture.  "I'll get--"

"DON'T DO ANYTHING!  YOU'VE DONE ENOUGH!"

Moments later Lance was rushing passed her.  He headed down the stairs leaving her in the hallway with a now screaming Roselyn.  She didn't know what she should do.  Lance was the who could calm her in just a word.

^V^V^V^V^V^V^V^

The instant that his backside hit the coushins of the couch he'd felt tense instead of more relaxed.  He'd gotten Roselyn her dinner bottle a while ago and moved her so that she could sleep in her room before he'd brought the baby monitor down with him and was now pulling the pieces of the picture out to spread in his lap.

"I'm sorry James," he spoke softly to himself and the picture.  He didn't know why he was apoligizing for her.  He'd been doing too much of that lately, but he still felt the need to do it.  "She didn't mean it.  She loves you.  I know deep down she does.  Sometimes it takes time to deal with things.  She'll turn around sooner or later.  She's just not sure what she's supposed to do and neither am I for that matter."

Half the picture was together.  He'd grabbed the tape in the kitchen and had been placing small piece of tape on the back.  "I'm sure I'll be able to laminate this back together.  It won't be perfect, but maybe I can see if someone from the PR department has some kind of glue or something--"

The phone rang and he ignored it.  He knew that the ringer upstairs had been turned off and wouldn't bother Roselyn so it didn't matter if he let it ring again and again.  He wasn't in the mood to talk to anyone.  He normally would wonder where Serena was and what she was doing, but that night he was glad that she'd hidden herself somewhere in the house.  He didn't want to see her right then and he wasn't sure at that point that he wanted to see her ever again.  She'd ripped him to pieces, almost as if each piece of that little picture had been a part of him.

The sound of Roselyn hit his ears and he moved up from the chair letting the pieces fall to the ground.  As much as he wanted to run back and pick them up he was more worried about the real baby on the second floor instead of the one in the picture.

When he got up to the second floor he rushed into the room, but found Serena standing there holding Roselyn in her arms.  They both had tears in their eyes.  "I can't make her stop.  I tried.  I really did."

His heart went out to her.  He knew that she'd been avoiding things, but the look on her face truly told him that she had tried.  Roselyn was laying strangely in her arms and wailing like she'd just gotten a shot or something physically painful.

"Give her here," he said walking over.

"I'm--"

He cooed at the baby as he moved her into his arms.  He hugged her to his chest and held her protectively against his heart knowing that the sound of the beat of his heart would calm her, as much as the sound of his voice in his chest would.

"I didn't mean to--"

"Just go to bed Serena," he said.  He wanted to be nice, wanted to comfort the both of them, but the vision of her ripping up the picture entered his mind again, making his whole body tense up.  Roselyn cried out and he tried to relax a little, patting her diapered bottom only to find the reason for her discomfort.  She needed to change.

"Do you want me to--?"

"Serena I'm not going to tell you this again.  Go to bed and let me get her back to sleep."

The light in her eyes sunk.  "Fine."

He watched her back to disappear and turned to find the wipes and a new diaper for the little girl.  When he finally got her diaper off he saw that she was in need of a bath so he wiped her off as best he could then wrapped her up in her little towel with the hood at one end and took her and a new diaper into the master bedroom.  He walked into the bathroom, shut the door and pulled out all the things he needed for her bath then washed her before he wrapped her back up in her towel and brought her back into the bedroom.  Feeling tired he moved towards the bed instead out of the room.  He lay on his back and held her on his stomach, covering her up with the towel a little more when she started to shiver.