February 2019

"Thank you so much again for babysitting," Rachel said once Aidan; the newest member of their little family was put to bed. "We'll be back by ten, I promise."

"No problem, really. Louis is going mudding in the morning so I don't have to be up early, take your time," Donna said.

Rachel rolled her eyes, and then slowly observed her surroundings, obviously mentally checking items off a checklist.

"Rachel, go. Everything's fine. If I need anything I know where the drugstore is and I have your number. Have a nice date night with Mike." Donna grabbed Rachel's face and gave her a kiss on the cheek.

Rachel gave Donna a hug in return. "Thank you. We'll try. Hopefully we make our reservation."

"Well, you're not gonna be on time if you don't go. Scarm!" Donna waved Rachel toward the door.

"Bye!" Rachel yelled on her way out to meet an impatient Mike who was warming the car outside of their Westchester County home about an hour outside of the city. The pair decided they needed more room after Charlotte had started walking and they found out they were expecting again.

"Daddy?" Charlotte stood at the top of the stairs, her sweet face showing between two of the balusters.

"Mommy and Daddy went to go get some dinner," Donna said to the two-year-old, climbing the stairs to join her. "You need to be in bed, though, sweetie. C'mon." Donna held her arms out and Charlotte held hers out in return. Donna hoisted the girl into her arms and carried her back to her bedroom, which was papered in African safari cut outs and decked with stuffed animals to match.

"I want my Daddy," Charlotte blubbered as soon as Donna put her back down into her bed.

"Honey, he'll be back in just a few hours, but he won't come back until you go to sleep, okay? You can see him in the morning. Lie down for me, okay?" Charlotte threw herself down onto the mattress and hid her face in the sheets. "I'm sorry, honey," Donna said, covering her back up. "Goodnight." She stayed for a moment while the little girl continued to cry, but she didn't pick her up again. Maybe it was because her mother had said she'd raised her to be a self-soother. Donna left the door open a crack and decided to check on Aidan, who wasn't making a peep from his bassinet in Mike and Rachel's bedroom. Donna admired the shock of blond hair on the boy's forehead, and then grabbed the baby monitor on the way out.

While Charlotte was a daddy's girl at heart, she was a carbon copy of her mother in appearance, dark hair, dark eyes and sun kissed freckles that were just starting to show, but Aidan, was completely Mike's child, there was no denying it even though Harvey would still make jokes, blonde hair and sparking blue eyes.

Having had only eaten a quick dinner before coming over, Donna helped herself to some chocolate ice cream from the freezer. She flipped channels until she found a crappy Lifetime movie. Just what the doctor ordered, she thought. By the time she'd found the movie, her bowl was clean, so she filled it up again.

Donna had tuned into the movie an hour late, so by the time another half hour passed, the main characters were finally sleeping together, had passed their obstacles in a neat little hour and a half. Despite the ice cream slowly filling her tummy, Donna watched on plagued by a feeling of emptiness, not the regret that came with overeating. She set the bowl aside and lay down on the couch, clutching a yellow throw pillow. This was starting to feel like Valentine's Day, almost week ago, when she'd been curled up on her own couch, stress-eating, feeling sorry for herself. That's what the last couple of years had been like, really, but that stupid greeting card holiday brought out the absolute worst in her penchant to throw herself pity parties.

She felt the tears coming forth when the baby monitor crackled right before it issued a scream. The thing was pretty unnecessary, as Donna could hear the baby loud and clear from downstairs in the hauntingly quiet house. She calmed herself and hurried upstairs.

Over herself and her issues for the time being, Donna toted the helpless, upset baby downstairs, shutting Charlotte's door on her way so as not to wake her. Just being picked up seemed to satiate Aidan a little, but her still whimpered with balled up fists as if he wasn't sure whether anyone was going to take care of him.

"It's okay, honey," Donna said softly, rocking one arm back and forth gently while she pulled a bottle from the fridge and held it under hot running water. "Just a minute. Just a minute."

Donna hoped the baby needed to eat and didn't need a diaper change, because feeding the precious little boy sounded much more pleasant than changing him. She got lucky; Aidan latched on to the bottle immediately. "You are so cute," Donna marveled, taking her seat again on the couch, crossing her feet underneath her. "Want to stay up and watch crappy movies with me? You know, they call Lifetime: 'Television for Women,' but the women usually get the short end of the stick in these movies. Just one of the many words of wisdom I have for you. Here's another. Don't be one of the stupid boys. Don't even bother thinking they're cool. Don't string girls along. Don't flirt with them, or make them feel protected, don't make them feel pretty, and then when you're bored, just…up and leave. So like I said, boys can be stupid don't be one. Oh, and it's totally okay to buy Chunky Monkey ice cream and only eat the chocolate part. I do that sometimes. Everybody knows the chocolate part is the only important part. It's all about who gets to the carton first. Whenever you have the option, actually, don't even bother with ice cream. Just buy chocolate."

Aidan's eyes peeled open for a moment, peering up at Donna. "Yeah. I know. Auntie Donna's a little crazy. But behind every crazy woman there's a boy at fault." Donna dropped a kiss on the baby's forehead and used her free hand to reach for a nearby baby blanket with which to cover him up. "I can't believe how little you are. I would very much like one of you for myself, but like I said boys are stupid" Aidan pushed the bottle nipple from his mouth, letting some milk dribble down his chin. Donna stopped her little rant and rested the baby against her chest. It wasn't long before she got a good burp out of Aidan. "My sentiments exactly."

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Donna said gently as the baby continued to cry, exposed to the world while Donna tried to figure out which side of the diaper was the back and which was the front. "I'm sorry, honey. It's been a long time since I've done this. Actually, I don't even remember the last diaper I changed. There you go." Diaper situated, she patted Aidan's belly before refastening his onesie and pulling his pants back up. "All better. Mommy and Daddy should be home soon, I think. Actually," she said, upon glancing at the wall clock, "they're running a bit behind."

No matter what Donna tried, the baby still fussed a little when the doorbell rang twenty minutes later. Donna wondered whether it was safe to bring the baby to the door with her in the middle of the night when she wasn't expecting a visitor. But maybe Rachel and Mike had forgotten their house keys. There was a window to the side of their front door, though, and the figure Donna could see through it looked an awful lot like a police officer.

Hoping that some vandals were simply on the loose and the cops were canvassing the neighborhood for witnesses, Donna decided she should at least open the door and tell them she couldn't be of any help.

She flipped the porch light on, unlocked the deadbolt, and opened the door.

"Good evening," the young officer said through the storm door. An older partner stood next to him.

"Good evening," Donna replied warily, trying to shush the baby and bounce her while talking to the officer. "Can I help you?"

"I'm Officer Clark, ma'am. This is Officer Stevens. May we come in?"

"Of…of course." Donna had rarely ever been this nervous.

"Are you a friend or relative of Michael and Rachel Ross?" Officer Clark asked once he and his partner were inside and the door was shut, blocking out the bitter wind.

Donna's eyes widened. "I'm—I'm a friend of theirs, yes. What's going on? Are they all right?" Officer Clark made that dreaded motion to take off his cap.

"I'm very sorry, ma'am, but they were both killed in a car accident about forty minutes ago."

Luckily, Donna clutched the once again crying baby more tightly instead of dropping him.

"They both passed instantly. They didn't experience any pain. Their…bodies—" The officer paused, unsure he'd used the right words. He sounded new at this. "—They're at the morgue at New York Presbyterian. They were identifiable from their driver's licenses, so no one needs to go in to identify them. Is there anything we can do for you?"

Donna wanted to cover her gaping mouth with her hand, but she didn't trust one arm to be strong enough to hold up a baby, even as feather light as she was.

"Ma'am?"

"No," Donna choked. "No, thank you. I just—oh, God," she wailed finally. Officer Stevens quickly took the baby from Donna's trembling arms while Officer Clark rested a consoling hand on Donna's shoulder. "Ma'am, one of us can stay with you and the children until another friend or family member arrives. Or are you the only one in the area?"

Tears blurred Donna's vision so that the officers were just black blobs, and whatever the officer was saying to her was muffled beyond comprehension.

"Ma'am?" he said again. The baby shrieking in the background in reaction to being held by a stranger with very cold arms snapped Donna's sensations back into working order. "Would you like one of us to stay with you and the children? Records showed they also have a little girl. Is she here with you?"

"Yes, she's asleep." Donna, paused to catch her breath. "And n—no, I don't need you to stay but could you put him in his car seat over there for me? I don't think I can." Donna flapped her hands about, as if trying to wake them up. "Thank you," she said when Officer Stevens moved Aiden's car seat from the table to the floor and reluctantly placed the screaming infant into it.

"If you need anything else, ma'am, please give the police station a call."

Donna couldn't bring herself to say anymore; she merely nodded, both her hands covering everything but her drenched eyes. She sat at a kitchen chair right before the news sank in further, before her knees liquefied underneath her. The front door was closed in a moment, and once that moment passed she inhaled in one long, deep, shuddering motion. The baby wailed away angrily in the background, but Donna could hardly process what to do with herself let alone her godson at the moment.

"Phone, phone, phone," she muttered shakily under her breath. It was in her pocket. There was no doubt in her quickly drowning mind as to whom she would call first.

"Donna?"

"I need you—"

"What's the matter? What's going on…why are you crying?" a concerned voice questions on the other end. She envisioned him putting down whatever it was he was doing, as it didn't sound like she'd woken him up. He sounded like she'd interrupted something.

"I need you—to come to—come to Rachel and Mike's house." She knew she was stuffy and wondered whether Harvey understood a word she uttered.

"What's going on?"

"Please just come," she squeaked, not wanting to take in a gasping breath over the phone but unable to control herself. She thought she might begin to hyperventilate if she didn't slow down and breathe properly.

"I'll be there as soon as I can, okay?"

Trying to regulate her breathing, Donna didn't answer right away.

"Donna?"

"Just get here as fast as you can, please."

"I'm already out the door, see you soon."

The line disconnects from her end.

He has no idea what's happening or what's to come. He only knows that he hates knowing she's crying.