'Dell, can you hold that for me, baby?'
'Yes Mama. How is Mallory?'
'She's just great, napping like an angel.'
Dell put the strap of his mother's purse over his shoulder like it was a back-pack and stretched to the balls of his feet to have a look at his little sister. She was so cute, like a little squishy potato-baby. She had dark eyes and they'd most likely be blue like his - their mother had flecks of green in hers - and the same nose as him, too. It made his four-year-old heart so proud his parents had given him such a pretty sibling.
Now it was time for his baby girl to go home and Dell couldn't be more excited.
'Mama, why you carry a purse?'
'Same reason you carry a backpack with your insulin kit, Dell.'
'So you have your things in case you need'em.' Dell pursed his lips together. 'I get it. So...Mallory's diaper bag is like her purse?'
Honey-Milk laughed; her little guy was too smart. 'Something like that.'
Andrea swung into the room, pushing a wheelchair. 'Your chariot awaits, madam.'
'Thanks.' With the baby in her arms, she sat down wincing slightly. The surgical scar was healing well, Harvey had said and it was itchy as hell, between the fact it was in her bikini zone and the fact the skin was knitting itself back together. 'Dell, hand Andrea my purse please.'
'Here you are Andrea.'
'Thanks Dell. You want a hand with your back-pack?'
'No thank you, I've got it under con-tuh-rol.'
'He's very independent,' Honey-Milk informed Andrea as the four of them went to the elevator. 'Kevin and I are going to take him to that clinic next March for children who have chronic conditions, so he can learn to give himself his shots.'
'That's a great idea. It'll definitely give him a sense of security to know that he can do it himself and he's self-sufficient.'
'I am a big boy, Andy, I don't cuh-ry anymore at nee-dells. 'Cept if the doctor needs a buh-lood test but those really hurt.'
'I'll tell you a little secret, I don't like getting needles either,' Andrea whispered at him and Dell's eyebrows drew together.
'But you are a nurse like Mama, Andrea. How do you do your nursing job?'
'I am okay giving them to other people, but I don't like it when I have to get them done on me.'
'Oh. That's funny.'
The elevator doors opened and Honey-Milk didn't have to look up from her perfect little girl to know that Andrea's day had just improved exponentially: Nurse Daniel Brick was texting in the elevator. He waved to them, straightened up when he saw his girl pushing their colleague and friend into the elevator with her kids.
'Hello, Nurse Buh-rick,' Dell gave him a friendly wave, squinted. 'Did you get bigger?'
'No, I don't think so. You're getting taller on me, though.'
'I've been eatin' my veggies.'
'It shows.' Brick bent, then made a show of groaning as he picked up the boy. 'Oh man, you got rocks in your pockets or what?'
'I have a dinosaur in my backpack.'
'That explains it. I'm going on break,' he said to Andrea, 'you want me to snag you something from the cafe?'
'Juice and club soda.'
'What kind of juice?'
Dell studied, listened to the way they interacted. 'Andy?'
'Is Nurse Buh-rick your boyfuh-riend?'
'Dell,' Honey-Milk admonished her boy lightly as Mallory cooed in her arms. 'That's impolite.'
'But they sound like you and Daddy.'
'Yes Andy is my girlfriend,' Brick confirmed for him, making Andrea do an excited little shimmy she knew Honey-Milk couldn't see. 'What about you, bro, you have a special lady in your life?'
'Uh-huh, her name is Con-suh-tance Tessiana Marie Esuh-posito. I call her Tessi, and I'm gonna marry her when we're big enough.'
'I remember her, she's getting big.'
'She is very puh-retty and she likes Legos.'
The elevator doors opened once more and Andrea shoved Honey-Milk's wheelchair out after a quick peck of lips on Brick's cheek. 'Come on there Romeo, let's go find your daddy.'
'I'm not Romeo, Andy, I'm Dell.'
It was the sight that greeted Ryan as he waited by the doors of Saint Vincent's - his wife and son sharing a smile with the newest little Ryan in their midst. Had anyone told him this was what he would get when he and Honey-Milk had a quickie wedding, he wouldn't have believed himself to be so fortunate. Now he had the prettiest wife and the most beautiful children on the face of the planet.
When Andrea wheeled Honey-Milk and Mallory up, with Dell walking proudly beside them, he gave them both a grin and crouched to pick up Dell.
'We met Andy's boyfuh-riend in the elevator, Daddy.'
'Did you now?'
'Daniel sends his hellos,' Andrea added, watching Honey-Milk carefully as she stood up. 'Okay, you know the drill. Lots of rest, don't scrub the area near your stitches, and even though you didn't have a push-birth, you've still got the open-placental wound so you'll want to wear your pads for the next few days or so.'
'Thanks for everything, Andrea.' Ryan held out a hand.
'It's what I do.'
'And, if you and Brick felt like popping in for a visit, that'd be cool,' he added with a wink that made the pretty nurse blush ruby.
'I'll keep that in mind.'
'Daddy, I think she is gonna marry Nurse Buh-rick,' Dell told Ryan as they walked out to Honey-Milk's waiting car. They'd been able to keep the hybrid when they'd moved, as the seller of the apartment had been willing to take their bargained offer and though Ryan occasionally pondered the usefulness of a car in Manhattan, today was not one of those times.
'Ah, my little matchmaker. How's our little lady-bug doing, honey?' Ryan asked as Honey-Milk put Mallory in her car-seat beside her brother.
'Mama, not to worry, I will watch her while Daddy duh-rives us all home. Hear that?' Dell leaned over and gave his sister a little tickle on her tummy; she barely flinched she was so into her nap. 'You get to see your home.'
'Look, my marsh-Mallory-mellow, this is our living room, and our couch, and our TV set, and-'
'Easy, baby, she's still sleeping.'
'But I gotta tell her and teach her what everything is.'
Ryan had to laugh at his boy's enthusiasm, so excited to share everything with his little sister when they walked through the door of the apartment. He had reports from his own parents that when his sisters Kelsey and Dana were first born he was just this button-bursting proud. 'Dell she's not even a week old, I don't think she even knows her own name yet.'
'She knows our voices, right?'
'That's true, but when she was in Mama's tummy, she could hear us.'
Dell followed his father into his bedroom, pulled his t-rex from his back-pack. 'I don't think so, Daddy, you're makin' that up.'
'No it's true, you know how I know?'
'When the nurses first brought her over so Mama could see her, she was crying-'
Ryan scrubbed his hand over his face; this was the downside of having such a bright child, they wanted to know every damn thing. 'Because the outside world is a much cooler temperature than inside Mama, you know like when you get out of the bathtub?'
'Oh yes, Daddy, that feel very cold.'
'It's a little like that. Anyways, Mallory was crying because she was cold, so Andrea brought her over for Mama to see and as soon as Mama started talking to her, she stopped crying, and she stopped crying too when I talked to her.
'So she knows who Mama and you and me are, but just doesn't know we're called Mama and Daddy and Dell. She is very suh-mart for such a little thing.'
'It runs in the family. And now it's nap-time, you want a story or music?'
'Music puh-lease, Daddy.'
Ryan flipped on the bureau-topper stereo; soon the soft strains of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue floated around the boy's room and he was snoring softly. Unbelievable still, he thought, that such a sweet little boy is my child. He left the door partially opened and went to the nursery, where he found his wife in her rocking chair and nursing the baby. Love swelled in his heart, pure and wholesome for the boy he'd just left and the girls he'd just come to.
'Hey,' he whispered and Honey-Milk glanced up. 'How's she doing?'
'Good, really good, she loves to eat,' she replied with a giggle. 'She's still trying to figure out her tongue placement and it's a little ticklish.'
'You don't giggle when I do that.'
'Dirty. And you're not trying to suck the milk out of my boobs when you do it, you're trying to put me in the mood so we can practice making a little one of these.'
Honey-Milk caressed her daughter's little head and sighed. It was so nice to have her family home after the stress of a hospital stay. When Mallory had her fill, she switched sides and when the tank was topped-up, Ryan held out his arms to burp the baby. Honey-Milk felt little tears well up in her eyes as she watched her cop, the big bad homicide policeman, coo like a total softie at his little girl.
'There we go my little sunshine, no nasty bubbles in your belly and now I think it's time for a nap.'
'Oh yeah, she was awake until the car-ride home,' Honey-Milk agreed.
Cradling her gently, Ryan put Mallory in her crib, tucked her in snugly before dimming the lights and kissing her brow. 'Sweet dreams, my lady-bug. We love you.'
Once Honey-Milk had given her a kiss as well, murmured her 'I love yous', she felt her husband's arm slip around her waist carefully as he closed her door behind them, the baby-monitor on his belt. 'And now it's time for us to rest as well.'
They went into their master bedroom and Honey-Milk stretched onto her back, the first time she'd slept like that in almost four months. Staring at the ceiling she ran her hands over her tummy, which was feeling very loose and jiggly.
'Kev,' she said in a small voice. 'I really did give birth to her, right?'
'Are you insane? I was there, you really did. What the hell would make you think otherwise?'
'Well, I was going on one of my little walks with Andrea, you know to get up and moving around to get my legs in working order right? We passed this one room where this woman had been in seventeen hours of labour and needed an emergency C-section, and her parents were telling her she didn't really have a baby, she had an operation.'
'Come here.' Ryan turned her onto her side so she faced him and gave her a sweet kiss. 'Honey, if this baby had come out your nose you would still call it giving birth.'
'So this was like an abdominal sneeze?' Honey-Milk laughed, then pressed a hand to her stomach. 'That's still a little sore.'
He pulled her close against him and ran his hand over her hip, just holding onto her. 'Just close your eyes, Jenn, get a little rest.'
'You know what would help?'
'No, I want to sleep too.'
Ryan looked at the hope in her eyes and relented; how could he resist that look? He cleared his throat and began to recite the one thing he knew would help her sleep right now.
'Twas brillig and the slithy toaves did guile and gimble in the wabe,' he began.