Rasul left a few days ago. Brie has stayed pretty quiet about him to us, but she did open up to him a little. She started talking more and asking him questions. I’m still a little worried that she thinks I’ll be mad even though I assured her several times.
I’m just finishing up some notes for work when Brie comes into our bedroom and hops on the bed with me.
“Hey, pretty girl,” I smile as I start to shut down my laptop.
“Hi.” She scoots closer and rests her head on my shoulder.
“What’s going on?” She cuddles with me, but it’s not normal for her to come in the room when I’m working.
“Nothing. I just wanted to be by you.”
“Oh yeah?” I smile. “Well, it just so happens I’m done working so you get all my attention.”
“I’d get it anyway,” she says confidently.
“That’s true,” I chuckle. “Whatcha thinkin’ about? You have your thinking face on.”
“Well, I know I look like Rasul, but he doesn’t feel like he’s my dad. You do,” she tells me.
“That’s because I am your dad. I’ve been the one helping Mom raise you. We even changed your name to Northman to show everyone else you’re my daughter,” I tell her.
“I know. Mommy told me,” she says.
“Did Mommy also tell you that I was the first person you walked to when we taught you how to walk?” Sookie was a little hurt by that, but I’ve been telling her since the first time I met her I wanted her, and apparently she wanted me too. “I’ve always been your dad, Brie, that’s never going to change.”
“I don’t want two dads,” she says. “I just need you.”
“You have me, pretty girl,” I whisper and kiss the top of her head. “Do you want Rasul to still be your friend?”
“Yeah, that’s okay. He said if I ever go to Hawaii he’ll have a pineapple eating contest with me,” she giggles.
“See, he just wants to be your friend,” I smile. “Your relationship with Rasul is all on your terms.”
“Okay,” she nods. Brie climbs onto my lap and hugs me.
I wrap my arms around her and snuggle with her for a while before I say, “You know I’m going to miss this when you turn into a teenager and you don’t want to cuddle with me anymore.”
“I’ll always give you hugs.” Brie pulls back and holds out her pinky finger.
I hook it with my own and say, “Remember this when you’re fifteen and have a crush on a boy I don’t approve of.”
“Boys are gross.”
“They are right now; you’ll like them one day. I’m dreading that day because I won’t be your favorite man anymore,” I playfully pout.
“Yes you will,” she insists and lays her head on my chest.
“Good,” I whisper and rest my hand on the side of her head, holding her close. I know the truth. She’ll probably hate me for one reason or another in her teen years, so I’m going to hold onto her as long as I can. “You know you’re my favorite girl, right?” I ask her.
She nods her head.
“Good,” I repeat.
I hold onto her for a little while longer. Brie snuggles is one of my favorite things.
“I love you, Brie,” I remind her.
“I love you too, Dad,” she replies.
“Smells like dinner is almost ready. Do you want to go downstairs and eat?” I ask her.
“Yeah,” she says. “Can we watch a movie after dinner? My homework is all done.”
“Sure. I’ll even watch the princess crap you love,” I tease and tickle her side.
“It’s not crap! Football is crap,” she retorts.
“No way!” I gasp and tickle her other side.
“Uh huh!” Brie squirms and laughs. “Go Packers!”
I gasp again and toss her across the bed like a hot potato.
“Don’t you ever say that filthy word in my house, little girl.” She does this to me all the time.
“Green Bay for life!” she laughs and scurries off the bed.
I chase after her and yell, “Sook! Brie is cussing again!”
“Brie, don’t tease your dad about that stupid game,” Sookie replies. “It’s not his fault Brett Favre is your hero.”
I catch up to Brie and flip her upside down. I carry her into the kitchen like this and tell Sookie, “She’s going down to the dungeon. Say your last goodbyes now.”
Brie laughs and says, “I’ll see you during visiting hours, Mom.”
“I’ll bring you a green and gold blanket,” Sookie winks at her.
“Woman, you’re next,” I growl.
“Oh I don’t think so, mister.”
“I do think so.” I give her a look that says she’s going to be getting a spanking once the kids are in bed if she keeps it up.
“Take her to the dungeon. I’ll bring her a dinner of cheese curds and bratwurst,” Sookie smirks.
“I’m gonna have to dip her in bleach,” I sigh.
“Don’t you dip my baby in bleach,” Sookie says. “She can be a fan of anything she wants.”
I flip Brie around so her flush face is level with mine.
“You’re lucky Mom saved you this time,” I tell her and kiss her cheek. “Plus you’re cute.”
“I know.” Brie bats her eyelashes at me.
I narrow my eyes at her. She knows how to get me.
“Go wash your hands, pretty girl,” I say and kiss her cheek before I set her on her feet. “Get your brother on the way and help him was his hands too.”
“Okay,” she says and runs from the room.
“Softy,” Sookie teases.
“She owns my heart, you know that,” I chuckle and wrap my arms around my wife from behind. I kiss her neck and say, “She kindly told me she doesn’t want two dads.”
“And you still threatened to dip her in bleach?” Sookie chuckles.
“She said the worst of all curse words,” I remind her.
“Packers is not a curse word.”
“Wanna bet?” I ask and give her a light tap on the ass.
“Packers, Packers, Packers,” Sookie laughs.
I growl and nibble on her neck. “You’re asking for it, sweet girl,” I whisper.
“I’ll wear my Packers jersey to bed tonight.”
“Feeling extra naughty are you?”
“Nope… just feel like wearing it.”
“Mmhmm,” I hum. The kids come running in and I snatch up Hunter when his whole body smacks into Sookie’s legs. “Going a little fast there, buddy,” I tell him once I have him in my arms.
“I’m hungwee,” he says. “My tummy is making noise.”
“It sounds like a T-Rex,” Brie giggles.
“He’s a growing boy. Maybe we need to feed him dinosaur steaks instead of the tiny plates Mom makes for him.”
“Like the ribs in the Flintstones cartoons?” Sookie snorts and starts making a plate for Hunter.
“Exactly.” I take Hunter to the table and set him in his booster. He won’t need it much longer. He’s going bypass Brie in the next couple years if he keeps growing like he is. “Babe, do you think Bradley is going to be a giant like this little monster?” I ask Sookie.
“Which little monster?” she chuckles as she approaches with Hunter’s plate. “Oh you mean this little monster?” Sookie leans down and nibbles on Hunter, making him squeal.
“I think Bradley is gonna look like Grandma Nina,” Brie says.
“Why’s that?” I ask and go to grab her plate for her. She can get her own, but Sookie is right when she tells me I spoil her.
“I just do,” Brie shrugs.
Alright. I guess we’ll find out in a few weeks.
“Babe, are you okay?” I ask Sookie when I find her curled up on the bed, clutching her belly. She still has about two weeks before she’s due, but I’ve been watching her like a hawk.
“Contraction,” she says and breathes in deep through her nose.
I sit down and rub her back.
“Contraction or contraction?” I ask. We have a birthing plan in place; I just need to know if it’s time to put it into action.
“They’re seven minutes apart,” she tells me and then whimpers.
“So… I’m going to call Grandma Nina now,” I say calmly.
“I’m going to stay here and try not to puke.”
“Okay, good plan,” I nod and spring up from the bed. I think I’m doing a lot better than the last time. With Hunter I fainted when she told me she was in labor. I grab my phone and it the speed dial for my mom. The kids are in bed already so she should have it easy.
“Hello?” Mom answers.
“Hey, can you come hang out with the kids for a while? Sookie’s contractions are seven minutes apart,” I inform her.
“I told her she was going to go early,” Mom says. “Yes, I’ll be there as soon as I can. I’m about an hour away.”
“Okay, I don’t know if we have that long… come anyway,” I tell her and close Brie’s door. She sleeps so lightly I don’t want her to wake up if Sookie screams. I doubt she will, but you never know.
“I’m leaving in a minute,” she says.
“Thanks, Mom.” I hand up and go back to Sookie. “How much time do you think we have?”
“I don’t know. Hunter took his sweet time getting here,” Sookie says. “I hope Bradley is faster. I don’t want to be in labor for twenty-nine hours again.”
I rub her back a little more and say, “Mom says she’s about an hour away. Do you want to wait until she gets here, or call your mom and go now?”
“We don’t go until the contractions are five minutes apart,” she says.
“Okay. How long ago did that last one start?” And where the hell was I?
“Alright…” I lie down behind her. We have the overnight bag packed and easy to get to. I just need to grab our shoes and we can go.
I kiss the back of her head and rub her hip/lower back area.
“Mmm… more to the left,” she says.
I listen to her directions and move back some so I can massage closer to her spine.
“You know we never came up with a middle name for this little guy,” I whisper.
“My dad’s middle name is Alan,” she says. “How do you feel about Bradley Alan?”
“That’s perfect,” I smile and rub her back a little harder.
“Oh that’s good,” she moans. “We can call him Carlos if you want.”
I chuckle and say, “His porn name can be Carlos Douglas.” Maybe it’s a bad joke, but it’s all I have.
“Never mind me. I’m just anxious and making stupid jokes. You know, Doug was the one that went missing…”
“Ooooh!” Sookie laughs. “I just thought you got Charlie Sheen’s birth name wrong.”
“Uhh… where did Charlie Sheen come into play?” I chuckle.
“That’s just where my mind went.”
“Got it, porn, Charlie Sheen. Yep, makes all the sense,” I smile and kiss the back of her head. She’s in labor, so I’m surprised she’s getting anything straight right now.
Sookie gasps and then whimpers. Her body tenses up and I know she’s having another contraction.
I look at the clock. Six minutes. She’s getting closer so I rub her back through her contraction. I’ll call Michelle as soon as this one is over.
“Deep breaths, baby,” I whisper.
Sookie groans and grasps the pillow and sheets as the pain passes through her. About a minute goes by before she blows out a deep breath and relaxes.
“Good girl. I’m going to call Michelle, okay?” I ask. I shift so I can keep my hand on her back and grab my cell phone.
“Mmkay,” she agrees. I’m guessing she wants an epidural ASAP.
I hit send on Michelle’s number and I tell Sookie, “Come on, let’s get you up so we can go.”
“Okay. I need to go to the bathroom first,” she says.
“Alright. Hello?” Michelle answers, but I’m talking to Sookie.
“Hi, everything okay?”
“Oh, Sookie’s just having contractions, but everything is great,” I smile into the phone. “My mom is about an hour away. Can you come sit with the kids until she gets here?” I ask. Michelle is supposed to come to the hospital with us, but I’m sure she’s fine with the kids until Mom can get here.
“Of course. I’ll be there in twenty minutes,” she says.
“Thanks, if you can make it any sooner please do,” I ask as Sookie gets to her feet. I hang up on Michelle so I can tend to my wife. “Do you need help?” I ask as she begins to waddle to the bathroom.
“I’m okay,” she says.
“Alright. Michelle will be here in twenty minutes or less,” I promise her and as she walks into the bathroom I go into the closet to get the hospital bag and run it down to the car in the garage. I turn it on and crack the garage door to let the emissions out. I run back up the stairs and Sookie is doubled over, leaning on the sink mid-contraction.
“I’m here,” I tell her and rub her lower back.
“I need… I need to push,” she says worriedly. ‘Holy shit this one’s impatient.”
I take a step back. She needs to what? She can’t push here.
“What do I do?” I practically scream. I’m officially freaked out.
“Go next door and ask the neighbor to stay with the kids,” she says. “Mrs. Fortenberry said she would if we need her to.”
“I’ll be right back. Don’t push!” I yell as I run out of the room. I race to Mrs. Fortenberry’s and I pound on the door. She’s not answering fast enough.
When she opens the door I grab her hand, tugging hard, and say, “I need you to watch the kids. Sookie is trying to push.”
“Well hold on a second I don’t have my shoes on and I need to call my boy to tell him I’ll be out,” she says.
I stop and look at her like she’s insane.
“Who the fuck cares about shoes and your boy is not worried. My boy is trying to come into the world now!” I yank her again. I don’t care if I’m rude. My priorities are a little different than hers. Sookie is up there giving birth on her own for all I know.
“Get your hands off me!” She hollers and frees her arm.
Fuck it. I turn and run back to the house. When I get in the door Sookie is making her way down the stairs.
“Mrs. Fortenberry is a no go. I’ll get the kids. Can you get in the car on your own?” I ask.
I sprint up the stairs and burst into Brie’s room. Her light sleeping is a blessing for once. “Get in the car. The baby is coming and Grandma is taking too long.” I run over to Hunter’s room and scoop him up without worrying. I can have Brie call Grandma Missy in the car.
When I get back down Sookie is panting in the passenger seat. I set Hunter in his car seat and Brie is still coming out of the house. I thrust my phone at her and pick her up to put her in the car behind the passenger side.
“Baby, strap in your brother and call Grandma Missy, okay?” I direct her and click the garage door all the way open.
“Mmkay.” Brie’s still mostly asleep.
I wait until she has Hunter, who never woke up, strapped into his seat to start backing out. She puts on her seatbelt and begins to doze off without calling Michelle. I reach back and grab the phone. I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to figure out how I did any of this later. All I know is I need to get my wife to the hospital.
“How you doing over there, babe?” I ask as I call Michelle back. Who gives a fuck about breaking the law?
“Uh huh,” Sookie nods and takes a deep breath. She’s got a death grip on the door handle.
As soon as I hear the phone click I say, “Michelle?”
“I’m almost there.”
“Meet us at the hospital. Sookie is trying to push so we couldn’t wait. I have the kids in the backseat,” I tell her and make an illegal left turn, running a red light.
“Sorry. Thanks.” I hang up and drop my phone. I don’t even care where it lands.
The car ride is made in silence. Mostly, Sookie’s heavy breathing and soft whimpers fill the air. Both kids are asleep in the backseat. I stop in the emergency entrance at the hospital and throw the car in park.
“We’re here, Sookie. You can push soon,” I promise.
I don’t wait for a response. I run into the hospital and tell the lady to get someone out to the car stat. Michelle is pulling in behind my car when I get back out to open the door for Sookie.
“How are you?” I ask as I help her turn.
“Trying to keep this kid in.”
“You’re doing great at it,” I smile as the nurse comes flying out with a wheelchair and Michelle walks up.
My doctor warned this baby could come quicker, but this was ridiculous. I barely made it to the elevator before my water broke. Eric was still signing me in while I was being examined and within half an hour I was pushing Bradley out. It took an hour to do it, but then there he was, squawking and hollering… with a shock of dark hair on his head. Just like Brie predicted.
My dad and Eric’s mom have dark hair so it’s not that crazy. Because he’s early he only weighs in at seven pounds, four ounces. Hunter was closer to ten and didn’t want to come out. Bradley is perfect. He’s got all of his fingers and toes, and he’s got the cutest old man grump in his face.
It happened so fast that it’s all a bit of a blur to me. I look at the clock and see that he made it on the tenth. His birthday is 10-10.
“He’s prefect, Sookie,” Eric smiles as he’s looking down at our little blue bundle. “You’re pretty awesome at this baby growing thing.”
“Thanks,” I say without looking away from Bradley.
“He looks like my dad,” Eric chuckles. “He used to make that exact same face when he was irritated, or needed to take a shit.”
I laugh and run my finger over Bradley’s cheek.
“Wanna hold your son?” I ask. He hasn’t held him yet.
“Yep. You’ve been hogging him for the last eight and a half months,” he grins and takes him from me.
“Well you don’t have a baby hotel so…” I trail off and close my eyes.
“True… you want to sleep?” he asks. “I can have them take him so you can nap.”
“In a little while. I’m just resting my eyes.”
I feel Eric’s lips brush my forehead and I hear him move across the room. “We’ll be here,” he says quietly.
I let myself doze off a bit but I don’t go into a deep sleep. As soon as Bradley makes a noise my eyes are open, looking to see what he needs.
“Think he’s hungry?” I ask Eric.
“He is my son,” he smiles. He gets up from the chair and comes to sit on the bed next to me. “Do you want to hang out with Mommy for a little bit?” he asks his son.
“He gets to have your three favorite things at once. Cuddles, food and boobs,” I snicker.
Eric arches an eyebrow and says, “Technically I prefer your ass to your boobs, but they’re still fantastic.”
“They feel like overfilled water balloons right now,” I tell him as he hands me the baby. By now I’m an old pro at the nursing thing so I don’t bother calling a nurse first; I just get to it.
Eric leans over to kiss my lips softly. “Your water balloons are nourishing my son, so maybe they are my favorite,” he whispers.
I smile at him and then look down at the baby. He’s all business.
“Geez, you’d think this is his last meal,” I chuckle.
“Hunter was the same,” he shrugs. “And as soon as you’re no longer producing milk I’ll be all over your nipples too.”
Oh I know it. He’s benched for at least six weeks. After Hunter it was nine.
Bradley races through his first feeding in no time and falls asleep while he’s still latched on. I pull him away gently and I know he’s out when he doesn’t fuss at all. It’s been a big day for both of us.
“Did you send pictures to the moms?” I ask Eric as I cover up again. I’ll probably be discharged in the afternoon. It’s ridiculous how fast they send new moms home, but I’m actually happy about it since I’ve done this before.
“Yep. Nina said Brie has been awake since she got there and she’s beside herself waiting to meet him.”
“She’ll have to wait a few more hours,” I smile.
“She knows. I sent pictures and stats to our siblings and Thalia too. She’s pissed you popped first,” he chuckles.
“She shouldn’t be. She’s four weeks behind me,” I roll my eyes. “She is, however, convinced that her little girl is Bradley’s soul mate.”
“Just for that I hope he’s gay,” Eric chuckles.
“Oh come on… their son is only mildly annoying.”
Thalia’s son is four and he’s cute, but if he was my kid he’d be getting his little behind whooped on a regular basis. He’s called Thal a bitch more than once and she just laughs about it.
“I popped him on the butt the last time she left him with me and the kids on mom-date day. He thought it would be funny to look up Brie’s skirt. He’s lucky he still has eyeballs.”
“Little shit,” I mutter.
“I had a talk with Mustafa about it. He apologized and claims he’d talk to Thalia about it, but you know she runs that house. Actually, shithead runs the house now,” Eric rolls his eyes.
“They don’t believe in saying no,” I say seriously. That kid is in for a rude awakening.
“Give him to me for a week. He’ll straighten up,” he says.
“I wish,” I snort. “A few hours with him and I feel a million times better about our kids’ behavior.”
“Right. A Hunter tantrum seems like a walk on the beach.”
“No kidding.” I don’t deal with tantrums. As soon as a fit gets pitched he goes up to his room and stays there until he cools his balls.
“Do you want me to take him? You look exhausted, baby,” Eric offers.
“Sure. I think I can sleep now.” I am exhausted.
Eric takes the baby and kisses me again. “Sleep, I love you,” he whispers.
“I love you too,” I smile at him and turn on my side so I can get some sleep.
“I wanna hold him! I wanna hold him!” Brie says when we bring Bradley home.
“You can hold him in a little while. He needs to eat, and Mom needs to get comfortable, okay?” Eric asks.
“Okay,” she deflates.
“You can come upstairs with us if you want,” I offer. That gets her spirits up some.
“I’ll go get one of his burp rags,” she says and takes off running.
“Huh, maybe I don’t need to take any time off work with your little helper around,” Eric chuckles.
“I’ll only have her part-time,” I remind him.
“True. Good thing I have my paternity leave,” he winks.
I let Eric get Bradley out of his car seat and hand him to me. Going up the stairs sucks, but Eric’s right behind me. Brie is waiting for us when we get to the bedroom. She got the burp cloth and the boppee pillow.
“Thanks, Peanut,” I smile at her.
I sit on the bed and lean against the headboard. Since Bradley isn’t fussing yet I move the pillows around and let Brie hold her brother.
“He’s so little,” she says.
“You were that little too, once upon a time,” I tell her.
“He has dark hair like me,” Brie smiles.
“You said he’d look like Grandma Nina,” Eric reminds her.
“He has blue eyes like you,” he says and sits down at the end of the bed.
“We all have blue eyes,” Brie says.
“Yeah, but his are shaped like yours.”
“Can you just smile and nod?” Eric snickers. “Yes, like Mommy’s.”
“She’s a tough audience. You should know that by now,” I smile at him.
“But I’m trying to teach her to humor me like you do.”
“She’s more fun this way. It’s payback for your terrorism,” I wink.
“It’ll make her tough,” Eric snorts. “I’m going to check on Hunter.”
“He’s sleeping,” Brie tells us.
“Okay, then I’ll stay here and smother you with snuggles,” he tells her.
“I’m snuggling with the baby,” Brie counters.
“Huh, looks like she has a new man in her life,” Eric tells me.
“He is closer to her age and he’s cuter than you,” I say.
“Plus Mommy and me can make him a Packers fan,” Brie adds.
“I’m disowning you for that,” Eric deadpans.
“Liar,” Brie and I say in unison.
“Nope. I just have to make call and I can even have you two taken out of my will. I’ll give you your old last name back. Hunter and I will live in the treehouse with our Bears posters.”
“And your stinky frogs,” Brie says.
“Fwogs,” he corrects her.
Bradley opens his eyes and looks up at Brie. I see the side of his mouth lift. I’m sure it’s just gas but it’s the cutest little half smile I’ve ever seen.
“Watch it, Brie, I think he’s farting on you,” Eric teases.
“Nah, he just thinks you’re silly,” Brie retorts.
“Nope. He wants to fart on you for threatening to make him a Packers fan,” Eric counters.
“Okay, you two can go bicker somewhere else,” I tell them and take the baby from Brie so I can go change his diaper.
“Hop on,” Eric tells Brie and sits down so she can climb onto his back. “I’ll take you to the park so Mom can rest.”
“I wanna help,” Brie says.
“That’s very nice of you, sweetie, but Bradley and me just need to get some sleep. You can help me give him a bath later, okay?”
“Okay,” she nods and kisses Bradley’s head before she gets on Eric’s back.
Once she’s in place Eric gets up before he comes to kiss me and the baby.
“We’ll be back in a little while. Call me if Hunter wakes up before we’re back.”
“Will do,” I smile.
I watch the two of them go and then I take the baby to the nursery to change his diaper. Hunter was a little sprinkler that seemed to pee every time we changed him. Bradley, so far, seems pretty chill. He’s not much of a crier, which I appreciate. Of course it’s still early.
I get a fresh diaper on him and then take him back to the bedroom to lie down while I feed him. I run my fingers through his thick, dark hair and once he’s done, I start to doze off with him lying on the bed next to me.
I’m not sure how much time passes but I wake up when I feel the bed moving. I open my eyes to find my husband and kids making themselves comfortable with me and the new baby, the last piece to our little puzzle. I smile at Eric and he smiles back. I never could have imagined we would end up here all those years ago when he sent me that first message online, but I’m thankful that I took a chance by answering it.
There’s nowhere else I would rather be than right here with my best friend and our kids.