He wasn't sure how long he had been in the hallway. He was sure that he had never sobbed quite so much in his life and that if he didn't get some kleenex soon it wasn't going to be pretty. He turned, still clutching the balloons, away from the nurses' station and did that gross snot sniffing thing that guys are prone to do. He wiped his face and was thankful to have the delivery as an icebreaker as he went back to Donna's room. His greatest wish was that balloons and hormones did not mix negatively.
He opened the door slowly, leading with the balloons and popping his head in before the rest of his body committed to coming in. He must of looked kinda silly because Donna and her Mother both started to grin, then giggle, then were downright cracking up. Josh felt this was better than crying (although possibly equally as scary) so he came the rest of the way in and announced: "Someone sent balloons."
"Did you read the card?" The women asked in unison.
"Yeah, of course" Josh was pleased he could give an answer but delivered it sheepishly, "It was the Santos'…they sent balloons."
Donna's face went pale and she immediately looked ashamed and apologetic. "Josh" she began to plead.
"Shhhhh". He stopped her before she was able to get the "I am sorry" out. His mother's words echoed in his mind and he repeated them to Donna: "Ava is all that matters right now." He meant it too.
The room went silent as Donna and her mother stared at Josh. He held his breath in anticipation of what would come next. Never in a million years would he have guessed that it would be Mrs. Moss crossing the room to plant a kiss on his cheek and to hug him like a son. Josh clumsily juggled the balloons and the unexpected affection of his former critic. When she pulled back she said in what Josh felt was only a slightly patronizing tone: "Here, let me take those."
Free from the balloons Josh moved to the bed where Donna still cradled Ava in her arms. "How's our girl?" he whispered lovingly to Donna.
"She looks mighty fine to me." Josh grinned at Donna's somewhat off the wall response and was just about to ask to hold her when another nurse entered the room.
"Time for mom to get more rest." The nurse looked pointblank at Donna, and Josh marveled at the no nonsense tone that these nurse must be specially trained to possess.
With the baby lifted from the room Josh felt the familiar awkwardness between he and Donna return. Mrs. Moss' presence was also not helping. He was at a loss for what to say or do when suddenly Donna announced:
"Well, I am starving."
Like a man on a mission Josh bolted down the hall and to the nearest vending machine he could find at which to vend. Annoyed that peanut m&m's weren't available (as they were Donna's favorite) he stood frozen looking at the other available options. As he stared intently through glass he saw Mrs. Moss reflection behind him.
"You seem to have made you peace with all this Josh." She began with a twinge of curiosity in her voice.
Not looking back at her, Josh threw over his shoulder: "I had a little talk with my mom." His response came off in truest Lyman form: cocky, smart and darn right cute.
Mrs. Moss smiled and said knowingly "I can see how you were able to charm her."
"My mom?" Josh asked out of his instinct to deflect this tricky subject with comedy.
"My daughter Josh." Mrs. Moss answered not at all fooled by his attempt.
Josh started to laugh, nervously, and retorted, "Mrs. Moss, I can assure you of one thing…I have never charmed your daughter."
"Call it what you want, Josh, but since the moment she left Wisconsin it has been you, and only you, that drove her crazy enough to call home and unload. All these years I was blaming you for keeping my daughter away from me but the truth is, you were the one subject she was confused enough to call and talk to me about. Without you in her life, I may have never heard from her!"
"Huh." Josh took in this information as if he didn't quite know how to process it.
"What I am saying" she continued, "is that it sounds like your Mom is a smart lady and it sounds as if she told you to go after what would be important in your life…your daughter, right?"
She paused very briefly and looked for confirmation from Josh who sort of nodded along. She took a breath as if to gather her courage and continued.
"but I just want you to know that as a mother I would like to recommend you go ahead and go after my daughter as well because for these last few years you must have known that it was you who was most important in her life."
Josh was struck in that moment at how Mrs. Moss' rambling over the last 30 seconds had a very familiar feel to it. Everything from the sound of her voice to the way she was wringing her hands and looking at him so expectantly made him feel very warm inside and reminded him so overwhelmingly of Donna that he almost wanted to kiss her, or at least hug her really hard.
He had always wanted to kiss Donna each time she ever ranted at him, or looked at him expectantly, or argued with him annoyingly. He pondered what all that meant and came to the only conclusion that the past nine years could mean.
Josh looked at Mrs. Moss and smiled. "It was always her for me too Mrs. Moss."
"I know." She answered honestly.
"I am sorry I didn't always act that way, but it has always been her for me too." The guilty Josh began to show its head but Mrs. Moss would have none of it. Opting for Josh's typical humor deflection, Mrs. Moss smirked and said:
"Well don't tell me….TELL HER!"
Josh grabbed the pretzels out of the machine and sprinted towards Donna's hospital room.
An hour later Mrs. Moss knocked lightly and let herself into the room. Josh and Donna were now sharing the twin size hospital bed with Ava laying silently between them. Their faces were both tear streaked and they both looked exhausted but the important thing is that they looked together.
Mrs. Moss was carrying a tray from the cafeteria. She knew pretzels were not going to tide Donna over and she suspected that Josh could use a milkshake at a time like this.
She brought the food over to the smiling couple and stated with pride "Now that look likes a family."
"Aw, thanks Mom!" Josh exclaimed in his own snarky way.
The room got quite as Mrs. Moss got very pale. Donna started to crack up and he asked "too soon?"
"Too soon!" she agreed. "Maybe after we set the date!
Josh reached over and took Donna's hand and in a softer tone and with a head nod toward Ava he said "Ok, sounds good to me…Mom."