It was Sunday night and the new Esposito had been home a whole seven hours. She'd been fed three times and changed four already, and from the furrowed brow she had, Meredeth suspected it would be time soon for a fifth fresh diaper as they sat in the living room with post-dinner coffee.
The Ryans, as promised, were over for dinner, a yummy vegetarian lasagne Lili had helped Meredeth make after her hours in the ER to treat her low blood pressure along with some salad and fresh rolls Rosalita had brought over for her son and daughter-in-law from her bakery. Upon their arrival, Dell had ignored the dinosaur toys he'd brought in favour of staying glued to Tessi's every move, even going so far as to ask Meredeth if Tessi was 'suh-nacky' when she was making a face at him. He'd also offered to share some tomato sauce off his plate with Tessi at dinner but Honey-Milk had to explain to him that Tessi drank milk and they all had a laugh when Dell nudged his sippy cup towards Tessi. Ryan reminded him that babies drank milk from their mothers and being two and a half year old boy, Dell wrinkled his nose at the idea of boobs.
'Give it about twelve years, champ,' Ryan had chuckled. 'Then you'll understand the appeal.'
Now they sat enjoying warm drinks to fend off the dampness of April with the fire going in the hearth and Tessi snuggled up with her daddy in the armchair.
'Fatherhood looks good on you, bro,' Ryan said, watched the way his partner's hands kept her steady against his chest as he rubbed her back in circles. 'You think you can handle all the midnight feedings and two in the morning diaper changes and the...well, I guess you don't have to worry about a briss for a girl do you?'
'Not really,' Esposito laughed, making Honey-Milk shake her head.
'You'd think he's a Marine or something the way he talks so tough, but I don't know who was crying more when we had Dell circumcised,' she teased her husband. 'But just think of all the stories you'll get to hear from Castle about raising a daughter. Goofy as he is, he'd have some good tips, I bet, considering how Alexis turned out.'
'And Lili too,' Meredeth added, 'there's two Esposito granddaughters now.'
'Mama.' Dell patted his mother's knee impatiently. 'Time for nee-dell?'
'Yes and then home to bed. Mommy and Daddy have to work in the morning and you're going to spend the day with Auntie Lanie.'
'Oh?' Meredeth lifted an eyebrow in interest.
'Lanie, ever the clever one, found out the Disney Store on Lexington is doing an interactive puppet show and the show is Finding Nemo, one of Carey's favourites.'
'Tessi's too lit-tell,' Dell declared. 'She stay here, safe an' soun'.'
'I think that's a good plan.' Esposito nodded, saw Tessi was stirring after her dinnertime snack-and-nap. 'Let the big boys play and in a little while, Tessi can join in.'
Honey-Milk smiled, stood up. 'Not too little. Enjoy it while she's tiny. Pretty soon she'll be up walking and talking and asking for one more story at bedtime.'
When Ryan and Honey-Milk and Dell had headed for home, Meredeth and Esposito took their precious gem upstairs, where Meredeth settled herself in her oversized armchair, nursing pillow on her lap and sweater pulled over her head. Esposito laid Tessi down on the pillow just seconds after she'd made her face for more milk and Meredeth had unfastened her nursing bra to let Tessi feed.
'I'm getting used to that feeling,' she told her husband as the little one had another snack. 'Robina told me when she was first nursing Kelley, she was such a little piglet, she sucked both her nipples raw.'
'Yeah, she had to pump out a lot, not just because of that, but so TJ and Gil could help out too.'
Esposito sat on the floor where Arturo had wandered in, groaned a little when the giant mixed-breed parked his ninety-five pound rump on his right thigh. 'Oh, you big bony thing, you've got no meat on your behind,' he told the dog who sat watching Meredeth and Tessi. 'Pretty different stuff, huh boy?'
'Don't worry Arturo, you're still my baby too.'
'I can't wait to take these two to the park.' Esposito grinned. 'It's gonna be such a blast.'
'I've been meaning to ask you, what's up with that one?'
'Why am I so fixated on going to the park?' When Meredeth nodded, Esposito smiled. 'The first memories I have of me and my old man spending quality time together are going to the park up on East Eighty-Eighth. It was great, there was monkey-bars and slides, and spaces to make sand castles or play soccer. I can't wait for Tessi and I to have that too.'
Meredeth's heart went to goo as she imagined a tot-sized Esposito running around on the playground. 'Were you always the cop in cops and robbers games?'
'Yeah. I tried to use my sister's skipping rope as an Indiana Jones bullwhip one time, that didn't go over well.'
'With the other kids?'
'No, the kids thought it was awesome. The mother of the kid I tied to the post of the swing-set and my mother...not so much.' Esposito blinked as he watched Meredeth shift Tessi. 'That was quick.'
'No, no, she's still hungry, we're just switching sides. Have to make sure they are both emptied, according to Harvey and Honey-Milk.'
It took another fifteen minutes to finish feeding her, and when Tessi was done, Meredeth once again sat her on her knee with one hand supporting her neck and the other firmly patting her back while Esposito shoved Arturo off his lap, knelt so he was facing Tessi.
'Look at you, bright eyes,' he gushed as she focused on him. Her little hand reached out and grabbed the middle knuckle of his index finger and when she burped, Tessi leaned back, still holding her daddy's finger. A few seconds later Meredeth was shaking as she tried to hold in the laugh.
'Mere? You okay?'
'Uh-huh,' she giggled, standing up to put Tessi on the change table. 'But she burped, and then when she grabbed your finger and leaned back, she let one go in her diaper.'
Esposito laughed, mocked admonished Tessi. 'Tessi, that's no way for a young lady to behave!'
'She says 'But Daddy, I have gas in my tummy, one way or another it's coming out', right Tessi?' Meredeth said, now full-on laughing as she unfastened Tessi's onsie to check her diaper. One sniff once it was open had the new mother nodding. 'Yep, apparently today's milk was her version of Indian food.'
By ten pm, Meredeth and Esposito were both exhausted. Tessi had been awake and alert for another hour or so after she'd been fed then went down for the count around nine, having slept from six to eight while Dell and the grown-ups ate their dinner. Once she was asleep, Esposito had crept downstairs to Meredeth's DVD shelf and picked out something light and fun that didn't require a lot of brain power and landed on Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. She'd liked it, but when they'd watched it the first time together, Esposito had absolutely loved it and it became one of his favourite go-to relax movies; he found the colours of it very mellowing.
He brought the disc upstairs and found Meredeth in bed with her laptop, reading something on screen and laughing. 'What's so funny?'
'Robina, I let her log in to my Twitter the morning Tessi was born and post a photo of the two of us, remember?'
'I didn't realize she'd captioned it 'Say hello to my little friend!' and I'm reading all the tweets I've been receiving over the last two days.'
'Two thousand on Friday morning alone? Wow you are queen of the nerds, aren't you?' Esposito flopped onto his stomach, curled beside her to see the computer. 'I've gotten the walkie-talkie right here,' he added, holding up the baby monitor and putting it on his bedside table. 'We'll hear her no problem if she so much as breathes loudly.'
'Excellent. Check this out. *tiktokofaus, she's one of my biggest fans, she wrote 'Wow! Cannot wait to hear new mommy stories about you and your bub! Congrats to you and your hubby!' Isn't that sweet?'
'Very.' Esposito scanned the screen with her, tapped his finger at another one. 'Look at this. *joelkay writes 'congrats Meredeth and Javier looks like those Addison genes kicked in a little, huh?' It's your half-brother Joel.'
'I see. That was nice of him.'
After reading the list of tweet-tulations, as Meredeth called them, they settled into the big bed, Esposito's arm around Meredeth's shoulder while they watched their movie together . As he anticipated, Meredeth was snoozing before the arrival of the first rain of cheeseburgers. By the end of the film it was almost midnight and rather than waking Meredeth in anticipation of their daughter's midnight snack, he went downstairs to boil the kettle for some tea he knew she'd like when Tessi stirred.
Sure enough, he'd just finished pouring the water into the pot to steep when he heard the first gurgles through the baby monitor.