BabyGame17


Forty-Eight:

His arms ached to hold her the moment she was lifted from them and placed back in her incubator.  He kissed her good night, leaning over to touch his fingertips against her cheek then moved from the room to go home.  He thanked the nurses at the nurses station and talked for a short bit with the nurse who would be on duty the next day before he looked for the elevator.

He would have made it down to the car again, but Melinda came out of nowhere and cornered him.  She must have been there for a while from the scowl on her face.  He imagined that she'd gone in the front door and had been bombarded by the press.  "We need to make a statement."

He stopped in his tracks and stared at her for a moment, not really believing that she was being so bossy at a moment like this.  He wanted to tell her about holding Roselyn and actually have some good news come out of his mouth for once, but it seemed that Melinda's plans and his plans were totally out of sync.  "Hello Melinda.  I'm fine," he said with an annoyed tone, "I'm just fine.  Roselyn is doing better--Thanks for asking."

Melinda's eyes went wide for a moment and she started to say something back, but instead took a deep breath.  "Hello Lance."  She took another breath and squared her shoulders.  "I'm glad that Roselyn is doing better.  How is Serena?"

"Serena's at home.  I don't know what she's up to these days.  She's an emotional basket case, but who in their right mind wouldn't be in a situation like this.  Now--"  He took a deep breath and squared his shoulders as she had done.  "What statement do you need?"

Her mind clicked back over to business and her whole body tensed as her mind went over her notes for the day.  "I want to put something together about Roselyn's status and about Serena.  We've had a lot of fans sending baby things too.  I was wondering if you wanted to look them over or if you wanted to just send them to the Ronald McDonald house?"

"Roselyn is doing better and should be coming home soon."  He started to think about telling her about how he'd held her the first time, but he wasn't sure that she was in the right state of mind to be happy for his little victory.  "Serena is resting at home and trying to keep a low profile."  He could have said more about that too, but he knew that telling the public that they were fighting and couldn't be in the same room for more than five minutes wasn't the right way to approach the whole subject.  "We're both greatful for all the support-yada-yada-yada."  He rolled his eyes.  "You know how it goes.  Just don't put out too much information and we're all good.  Ok?"

"Ok," she said pulling out her palm pilot she quickly put in a note then looked at him.  "Now about the presents--"

This was something he would never get used to.  He hated that people were spending their money on his child.  He and Serena had talked a little bit about what they would do if this were to come up and donating them to the Ronald McDonald House attached to the Orlando Children's Hospital seemed to be the best idea.  "Write down all the information about who sent them and what they sent.  Donate it all to the house and get me the list and I'll write a letter and send something to them.  Ok?"

"That's all I needed," she said with a smile then leaned against the wall in the hallway.  "How are you doing?"

"Well," he said, "I mean as well as a person can be who is going through all this."

"Has your mother gotten in touch with you?" she asked.  He wondered if she'd heard about his fight with his mother.  He wondered if she'd even been there.  He couldn't remember.

"No," he said, "I thought Justin said that she went home."

"She's been over at WEG the last few days.  I've seen her here.  She stopped by anyway.  I'm not sure if she stayed for long, but she's been here."

"She has?"  He scratched his head.  He was so out of it these days he probably had walked right by her.

"Yeah," Melinda smiled, "Maybe you should head over that way and talk to her.  She's worried about you."

"She's worried that Serena is totally taking over my life."

"No," she said, "She's worried that you've lost your mind.  You man-handled her and made a fool of yourself!"

"I didn't make a fool of myself.  I was trying to protect Serena from dealing with people that she clearly can't deal with right now."

"She can deal with people fine.  It's you that she doesn't know how to deal with."

"Me?" he said angrily, "You aren't going to blame this on me."

"I'm not blaming anyone," she said, "It just seems that the both of you are waiting to see who is winning this game and neither of you seem to really know how to play the game."

"The game?" he asked.

"You're both in the same place right now, but neither of you are talking about what's going on.  You need to go to her and tell her that you're there with her and that you're there FOR her."

"It's kind of hard to do when--"  He looked around for a moment.  "--It's hard to do that when she's locking herself away or sleeping the whole day away."

"Just keep telling her Lance," Melinda said, "She'll get out of this funk soon and will be needing you to be there for her."

"I'm here for her," he said.

Melinda sighed and nodded seeing that he was ready to be done with the whole subject.

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

Lance's car was in the driveway when they returned from their walk.  Serena was feeling a little bit better about things.  She was asking Kelly about post parom depression and Kelly was completely sympathetic telling her that it would get better and that Lance probably was just as mixed up about things as she was.  She'd told her to call any time she needed anything and mentioned that she'd try to talk to Lance a little about things too.

"I better go in," she said.

"Smile girl," Kelly said, "You've got a man who loves you, a daughter who needs you and a roof over your head.  You just need to be patient with it all and let the pieces all fall into the right place."

Serena smiled and hugged her then pulled Brianna out of her seat and held her while Kelly put the stroller back into the Escalade.  She hugged the little girl tight and kissed her cheek and thanked her for going on a walk with them before she helped Brianna into her car seat, got one last hug from Kelly and moved towards the door.

"Lance?"  she called out as she went into the house.

"Serena?"

She looked around and took a deep breath.  She wasn't sure if she was going to be able to talk to him for long that day, but she knew that she should at least say something to him.  "Where are you?"

"In the living room!"  He called back.  "Where were you?"

"Kelly came over and we took Brianna on a walk."  She came around the corner and found him lying on the couch with a pillow under his head and the television on low.  If things had been normal between them she would have curled up with him on the couch, but they weren't, so she didn't.

"I saw the car, how's Brianna doing?"

"You aren't going to get mad?" she asked, "I mean I disappeared--"

"I figured you were with Kelly and that you were ok.  If something had been wrong Kelly would have called me and she didn't--"  He sat up, "What's wrong with your face?"

She moved her hands across her face and felt the sting of a sunburn.  "I was out in the sun a while.  I haven't been out in a while so I think that's what's making--"

"No," he said and got up and moved towards her.  "Your face is all--"  His hands came to frame her face and he leaned and placed a kiss on each cheek.  "You're all puffy."

"I was crying this afternoon," she said.

She let him kiss her cheeks and look into her eyes for only a few moments. When he started to pull her into a hug she had a strange feeling wash over her.  It was like pin pricks all over her body, as if every nerve ending was telling her that she needed to move away from him before she got too comfortable with the idea that they might actually have a moment's peace around the house.

"What's wrong?"  A frown formed on his lips and his eyebrows pulled together in confusion as she backed away from him.

"I'm really tired."  She yawned for effect and tried to move around him into the kitchen to get a drink.

His shoulders slumped as he moved back to his seat and she heard the thud of his body hitting into the cushions.  His sigh echoed off the walls.  "How was your walk?"

"Good," she said, "I'm really out of shape though and this heat was killing me.  Kelly is used to walking around their neighborhood, but ours has a few hills she's not used to.  I should have warned her before she decided that we needed to be gone for a few hours instead of a few minutes."

"Be careful."  His tone was flat when he said it and it brought tears to her eyes thinking that he really didn't care anymore about her.  A sigh escaped his mouth.  "I held Roselyn for the first time today."

Her voice caught in her throat and she had to take another drink of water. "Really?"

"Yeah," he said, "She's really tiny and slept most of the time that I held her, but it was just nice to have her there with me, ya know?"

Serena's tears were threatening to fall.  She bit down on her lip.


Forty-Nine:

The silence lasted through the two days that they were at home before James's funeral.  Melinda had filled them in on all the plans, had told them when the limo would be picking them up and that they wouldn't have to think about anything during the ceremony.  She told them that she had all the bases covered so that they could concentrate on the more important things of the day.

As they sat, surrounded by security, at the small gravesite two days later Lance's stomach rocked and rolled with the emotions he was having a hard time keeping in check.  He'd cried that morning in the shower getting ready, had burst into tears when Serena had been difficult with him about attending the ceremony and then had bit back the tears he should have been sheding at the grave due to the fact that his mother and father and sister weren't on speaking terms with him.  The scars of the morning were hiding under his dark sunglasses, much like everyone else's scars.  He hated to be so cliche like that, but he couldn't imagine having to make eye contact with anyone that day and they didn't seem to be wanting to make eye contact either.

A deep voice rose over the wind that had started to blow across the gravesite,  "A reading from Psalms twenty three."

Lance coughed back a sob as his eyes moved from Pastor Victor's spot at the head of the grave to find his mother across the grave from his seat.  She was sandwiched between his father and his sister and all three of them were avoiding his gaze.  He didn't blame them.  They should have been avoiding him.  His plan to reconcile with them hadn't been played out just yet.  Everything was still to raw for him to be slinking over to enemy lines to make peace.

He hated that his mother was there for the simple reason that he didn't want to deal with her, but it made his stomach crawl seeing her act as if she was so upset about things.  She'd dabbed her eyes and sniffed so many times someone would have thought that she was losing a son not a grandson.  It was just an act.  He knew that deep down, even without speaking to her, and he wasn't about to go and console her.  He couldn't even console his own fiance or girlfriend or whatever Serena had now become.

The sniffing noise from next to him caught his attention and his hand went out to find Serena's empty one.  Her fingers looked pale and frail next to the black material of her dress and the way that they wrapped around his, but put no pressure on his hand just reinforced the ghostly behavior she'd been exibiting over the last few days.  She was there, but wasn't.

As he moved closer to her in his seat, her other hand wiped a tissue against her nose.  She tried to look as normal as possible, but there was no hiding the way that all of this had taken a toll on her.  Her breathing was hallow and he would bet that her eyes were closed underneath her sunglasses.

"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want."  The Pastor continued the reading he was doing.  "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake."

Lance's free hand slipped inside his jacket and patted the two pictures that he'd put there that morning.  He carried Roselyn's sweet face, and James's crying one with him whereever he went these days.  He'd spent more than a few hours of each night staring at them and talking to them and was begining to feel that he was completely insane until that morning when his fingertips brushed against his pocket.

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."

Serena's shoulder began to lean against him and she sniffed again.  Lance removed his hand from his pocket and let go of her hand to put his arm around her as the rest of the psalm was being read.  She began to shiver even in the heat so he pulled her closer and kissed her temple.

"Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever."

Lance's mind was on how he was going to get away and see Roselyn that day when he noticed that everyone was getting up from their seats and coming to speak with him.  He pulled Serena from her seat and looked over at Eric who came over and protectivly moved her away from the crowd, heading towards the limo that was waiting for them.

"Thank you Pastor Victors," Lance said shaking the man's hand as he moved through the crowd trying to thank everyone for coming.  He avoided his mother and father, but spoke to everyone else.

"You're going to have to speak to her sometime."

Lance turned to find Justin standing there with a frown on his face.

"I will eventually, but I'm not starting a discussion over the grave of my son," Lance said through gritted teeth.

Justin shrugged and hugged Lance.  "I'm gonna head over and drop by and see Roselyn later on this afternoon.  I know they won't let me stay long, but I wanted to check on her."

"Thanks."  Lance said and found his eyes moving towards his mother in the crowd.

Justin coughed.  "You need to talk to her."

"I will," he said, "Thanks for going to visit Roselyn."

"When is she coming home?"

Lance smiled at the change of subject.  "Later on this week.  I hope sooner than later, but hopefully by Monday."

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

The limo door was pulled open and she watched from under heavy eyelids as Lance slid into the seat opposite her.  She took deep breaths as his body settled next to hers in the seat and prayed that he might think that she was sleeping so that she wouldn't have to speak to him.  She'd already leaned on him too much earlier and didn't want to start a pattern with him.

She watched him remove his jacket, leaving him in the white shirt and dark tie that had been hiding under his jacket.  His hand went and removed the knot at his throat before he folded the tie and stuck it into the pocket of the jacket that was then thrown towards the huge empty U-shaped seat in front of them.

"Serena?"  His hand slid across the space between them and he put his hand over hers as his legs slid out to full length.  With his other hand he slid his glasses off his face and slid them into the outerpocket of his suit.  

"What?" she asked trying to keep her tone even.  Her sunglasses hid the tears that were threatening to fall, but she turned her head towards him to see what he was going to say to her.

She couldn't mistake the look of disappointment in his eyes as his hand slid away from her and moved to sit on his own thigh.  He turned away from her.  "Nothing."

Her eyes moved back to the outside world as the car moved from it's parking spot and wove through the cemetary and out to the street.  Her mind tried to stay away from topics that would make her cry harder, but as flashbulbs and reporters bombarded the car she couldn't help but to shy away from it, moving towards the middle of the car.

"I hate this.  I fucking hate this."

Lance's arm found its way around her and he hugged her to him, lips kissed her temple.  "It's not supposed to be something that people look forward to."

Her mind worked for something to say to him to make him move.  She would have loved to have sat there in his arms and enjoy the comfort he was giving her, but she was afraid she'd get to used to the idea of him beting there for her and she didn't want to do that.  "Did you talk to your mother?"

He sighed and put both hands on the seat to push himself back to his side of the car.  His elbow rested against the window and his knuckles tapped on the glass twice.

She silently rejoiced his retreat from her side.  She hated to be cold like that, forcing him away on purpose, but she needed to think about things a little more before she made a finaly decision on how to deal with Lance.  She wanted to believe that things would get better, but after her spontaneous crying spell the other day she wasn't sure that it was going to be that easy.  Everything seemed to be mixed up and confusing and there didn't seem to be an answer that would settle any of it just yet.

"I'll do it later."  His hand rubbed at his forehead then scratched at his scalp.  "I would have done it today, but I'm not sure that it was the right time.  There was too much on everyone's minds to make a conversation like that worthwhile."

"What are you going to say when you do talk to her?"

"I DON'T KNOW!" He snapped at her and then pounded his fist against the door handle.

"You guys ok back there?" Eric asked from his seat next to the driver.  The window had been down and they'd been talking softly, but the outburst had sent the security guard into action.

"Who fucking asked you?" Lance snapped.

"Lance don't yell at him!"  Serena said, "He's only worried about what's going on back here because you pay him to do that.  He doesn't want us killing each other in the car...we can do that at home!"

"Killing each other?" he asked turning towards her.  His nostrils flared out and she could almost see steam coming out of his ears with his anger.  "I think you're the one that is killing me and killing our daughter by hiding from what is really going on around you!"

"Don't you dare say that to me."  Her voice shook, but she finally got the words out that she'd needed to say a few days before.  "I know you blame me for his death so don't try to blame more for the other things that are going on with Roselyn.  I'm trying my GOD DAMN HARDEST to keep my head above water and you're FUCKING NOT HELPING."

He started to say something then closed his mouth, then tried again to form a sentence and failed a second time.  "AND LIKE I'M HAVING A PICNIC OVER HERE?"  He took a breath.  "You don't know what it's like to go there and see her every day.  She looks like a rag doll Serena.  She's like the size of--"  He took another deep breath, this time he put his hand to his chest and gulped back a sob.  "She needs someone there and since you can't be there I'm going to be the one who is.  It kills me that you won't go see her.  She needs you.  She'll do fine with me, but she needs you.  She needs--"

"Stop it," she said, "Stop it. Stop it.  STOP IT!"

"NO!" he said, "I should have said this to you days ago...you were the one who wanted this baby and now you're abandoning her because life isn't going your way.  Serena you can't reshuffle the deck of cards or start over.  She's here and she's real and she needs you.  I ne--"

The car pulled into the driveway and Serena slipped from the car before it had stopped.


Fifty:

The sound of the doorbell ringing scared her.  It wasn't often that the sound filled the air and when it did ususally she was expecting it.  She hadn't called Kelly when she'd gotten home and she'd been half asleep thinking that Lance would be off to the hospital again so she'd have time to rest.

It took her a minute to uncurl from her pillow and slip from her position on the master bedroom's bed.  She ran her hands through her hair and moved around the material of her dress so that she didn't look like a tornado had hit her.  She heard the bell two more times before she pulled the door open to reveal a very serious looking Mrs. Bass at her doorstep.

"Hello there Serena."  She smiled widely at her, head cocked to the side trying to make eye contact with her.

"Mrs. Bass."  Serena let her eyes linger on the car that was parked on the street instead of at Mrs. Bass.  She didn't want to make eye contact with this woman.  If she wasn't half worried about Lance's relationship with his mother she would have slammed the door in her face.  

Diane Bass did the one thing that Serena never thought she'd see happen.  She ducked a little and looked a little submissive, caring even.  "I was wondering if I could come in and talk to you."

Serena squared her shoulders and sighed.  She wasn't going to be tricked by this.  She didn't have to talk to anyone if she didn't want to and she really didn't think that she would talk to this woman if they were the last people on earth.  "I really don't think that's a good idea."

"Just for a minute."  The older woman's eyes pleaded for forgiveness and pity, but there wasn't any there for her.  Serena hadn't been able to stomach the site of this heartless woman being comforted during the funeral.  She hadn't wanted grandchildren in the first place, but was making it look as if she was just as devistated as the rest of them.  "I'm not here to make trouble.  I just have some things I need to discuss with you."

"Are you going to try to talk me into having Lance talk to you?  I'm not about to pull open that wound with him so don't even try it.  If he's going to talk to you then he'll do it in his own sweet time, but he and I have had words over this and we've decided that it's better for us to not discuss it."

"That's not why I'm here.  I'm not going to worry about Lance right now, because he's my son and no matter what happens in life, he will always BE my son."  She took a breath.  "Lance is strong and can take care of himself, YOU are the one I'm worried about. You're not my child. I can't count on that unspoken bond. I can't just assume that when the dust clears we'll love one another, because that isn't a sure thing."

She stared at her, confused about her sudden spontaneous preaching.  "So what are you saying?"

"I'm worried about my son's family."  She took a deep breath.  "That family is you and that family is that baby."

"Well that is debatable."

Diane's eyes narrowed.  "I know I've been difficult and haven't been the most open person, but I don't know if you're the right one for my son.  I don't know if you know how to love someone the way that my son loves you.  I know it's rude to say that, but I'm worried that Lance is going to have his heart completely shattered by you and I think that the worst thing will be that your daughter will be the one who is effected by it the most."

"Why do you even care?"

Diane took a deep breath.  "Because this isn't the first time its happened in our family."

Serena's mind raced.  She'd known that Lance had been very excited about the idea of a family, but she would have thought that he would have shied away from her if he'd already gone through something like this.

"This happened to me after Lance was born."

"What?"

"Will you let me in?" she asked.

Serena moved back and let her into the house.  She motioned towards the rarely used formal living room and took a seat in the rocking recliner instead of on the couch were Diane sat.

"Lance doesn't know about this and I don't really have the heart to tell him.  It was an aveful thing to go through the first time for him and I don't want him to have to relive that a second or third time."

"Relive what?"

"Mr. Bass and I almost divorced when Lance was a year and a half old.  I had gotten pregnant with a second child and lost it."

"You had three children?"

"I technically had three children, but the second was a miscarriage.  She had downsyndrome too and died before she could come to term."

"What?"  Serena's heart sank into her stomach.

"That is why I had such a hard time with you telling me about James."  His mother began to cry.  "I was upset that you were going to--"

"But I wasn't going to Diane.  I loved James just as much as I love Roselyn and I never would have done anything to harm either of them.  I wasn't trying to hurt anyone by doing this.  I told Lance that I'd lost a child before and he told me he loved me and was going to be there no matter what--"  She sighed.  "Everything is so messed up that I don't know how to fix it or what to even say."

"All you need to do is be there for him."

"How?" she asked, "I can't even be here for myself.  I don't know how to be here for me let alone another person."

"What would you have been doing before, if this hadn't happened?"

She shrugged and wiped her eyes.  "I would have been drawing and traveling and being in love with him."

Diane squared her shoulders.  "Then do it."

"I don't know how to do any that anymore."

Diane seemed angry now.  "Then you figure out a new way to do it.  If that means me being gone so that you can concentrate on him and not our troubles then so be it, but I'm not going to sit back and watch my son go to hell and back waiting for you."

"To hell and back?" she asked.

"My son goes every day and sits next to that little girl at the hospital because she's defensless and needs her.  Half the reason that he's there and not here is that she'll let him be there.  You on the other hand seem to push him away at every chance.  I saw you today.  You don't even look like you like each other right now."

"Maybe we don't."

"Don't pull that with me Serena.  You know you love that boy and he loves you, but you need to deal with this together because I know from experience that it's too much for one person to handle.  It almost wreaked my marriage and my life when it happened, but Lance's father was strong enough for the two of us and kept us together.  Lance is trying his hardest to do that, but you need to at least be open to the idea that he wants there to be an "us" for you."

"I can't take back what I've done though."

"I know you can't," she said, "Just get to the point of where you can not make the wound bigger than it already is."

^V^V^V^V^V^

Lance's tired eyes scanned the road and mentally he made the corrections with the steeringwheel to find his way home.  He'd had a longer than long day and when he'd made the turn off the freeway he'd thought he'd seen his mother driving in a sedan towards Johnny's house from his neighborhood.  His irrational brain wanted to make a U-turn and chase her away from the house, but he knew he couldn't do that.  Car chases weren't his style and would be a nightmare if someone were to see what was going on.  He'd heard that some people knew about the rift between his mother and him and even though he wasn't ready to repair that hole, he knew it didn't want to tug at the edges of it and make it bigger than it already was.

It was only moments later that he found himself hitting the garage door opener to pull into the garage.  He could see that most of the neighborhood was home and saw that Serena's car was inside the garage already.  The last time he'd come home like this she'd been out on a walk, something that she'd needed.  This time he hoped that she was home.  Even if they weren't talking it comforted him to hear her in the house.

Parking the car was second nature and as he moved into the house he found Serena standing in the kitchen, just begining to cook what looked to be pasta.

"Hey-llo," she said with a nervous voice.  The pitch was higher and her voice caught in her throat when she started to speak.   She tugged at her pajama bottoms a little and moved her shirt a little and made eye contact with him for an instant before looking away.

"Hi," he said and rubbed at his eyes with one hand and tried not to let his suit jacket get into anything.  He started to move across the kitchen to go up to the bedroom when he heard hear clear her throat and he turned to look at her.  "Did you say something?"  He was going to give this a chance if she was willing to speak to him a little about what was going on.

"Did you want some of this?" she asked motioning her hand towards the stove.  Her other hand was curling itself in the ties of her pants and for the first time in days Lance wished that he could just sweep her off her feet and take her upstairs and make love to her.  That had never given them troubles.  When they were in bed together everything seemed to work, everything seemed to click and they were a team, with the common goal of loving each other.

He stared at her for a moment and then he noticed it.  Her eyes were different.  There was something in there, some sign of life, that hadn't been there before.  "I--How much are you making?  I don't want to make more work for you."

"It's just pasta," she said, "I have pasta--pasta sauce in a jar, but I thought you might be hungry."

His eyes narrowed for a moment.  "What do you want?" he asked.

"Want something?" she asked, "Why do I have to want something?"

He leaned his neck to the side and cracked it.  His hand went to rub the aching muscles there and he let his shoulders drop  some.  "Because you haven't been nice to me in about two weeks."

She shrugged.  "Well I don't want to do that any more."

He could see that pleading look in her eyes and moved out of the kitchen, "I'll be back.  I'm gonna take a shower real quick ok?"

"Ok," she said.

He could hear the smile in her voice.  "Don't be too long."

He could have sworn that he actually heard her sounding a bit happy.  It confused him that she was acting this way that day, but he wasn't about to argue with her about it.  If being half nice got him fed and got him through the night without a fight then he was willing to back down a little and let things flow.

When he reached the bedroom he found her dress lying across the end of the bed.  He slid out of his slacks and shirt and threw them next to her clothes before grabbing out his wallet so that he could put the pictures back into his wallet before he put the suit out to be dry cleaned.

The pictures stopped him.  He held them at arms length for a moment then moved to sit down on the end of the bed.  Tears sprang to his eyes as he stared at his children's eyes.  This was all too much and he wasn't sure that he could bare to hold up or the two of them.

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