Paul stared into the eyes of his newborn baby girl. His vision was blurred, and he couldn't see her face. He blinked his eyes, but tears kept coming. He kissed her tiny forehead. "Your mummy will pull through..." he whispered to his daughter. "You need your mummy. I need your mummy."
The wave of fear and pain rushed through him, and he leaned against the wall, sliding down on the floor and letting out a strained wail. Bella could die. She was fighting her life. He could lose her forever.
Someone opened the door, and Paul heard a male's voice. It was Charlie. Had he called Charlie? Paul didn't remember.
"How is Bella? Any news?" Paul heard him asking.
Paul lifted his head, but all he saw was a blur, and he turned his head back to his daughter, shaking his head. He didn't know. All he knew was that she could die.
Charlie knelt in front of him.
"How are you?"
Paul shook his head again. He was unable to say anything. If he opened his mouth, he would only shout.
Charlie moved his hand slowly toward the baby. His hand was shaking.
"Can I?" he asked. He softly moved the blanket so he could see the face of Paul's tiny baby girl.
"She? She is a girl?"
"She looks just like Bella," Charlie said.
Paul's whole body started to shake with sobs. Having Charlie here with them broke the dam. Bella could die!
A woman came next to them, and she took his baby.
"No," he tried to hold on to his baby. He could not lose his baby too.
"Paul, let me have her for a while," Paula said at the same time as Charlie grabbed him into a tight embrace, and Paul collapsed against him. Paul wrapped his arms tightly around the older man and let out all the pain and agony he was feeling.
Bella, his life, his everything, the mother of his baby could die. He would never see her smile again, see her eyes. She would never touch him again. These thoughts went on and on in a loop in his mind. He couldn't stop.
Charlie cried with him. "Son, she'll pull through... she's tough."
They stayed like this; for how long, Paul couldn't say. Having Charlie there helped him to calm down and to think. Utter panic had overtaken him just before Charlie and Paula had come. But Bella wasn't dead. She was in surgery in a critical condition, but she wasn't going to die. She can't die. He would not lose her. Their baby would still have a mother.
Eventually, Paul released his arms from around Charlie and wiped his face on the hem of his shirt. He groaned loudly, pressing his eyes with his palms. He took a few long breaths and opened his eyes. The lights in the room were too bright. His head was throbbing with the worst headache he'd ever had.
"Give her to me," he said coarsely to Paula, stretching his arms toward the woman. Paula gave his baby back to him, and he felt instant relief. Holding his baby girl was the only thing keeping him sane.
Charlie sat beside him and looked at the baby.
"Have you thought of the name?" Paula asked.
"Yes," Paul said. They would name her Lilyanne Awena, but he couldn't tell that. "Bella and I tell you together."
"Do you know what happened? What caused this?" Charlie asked.
"No," Paul said. He brushed his forefinger softly over Lilyanna's forehead and her ink-black silky hair. She was sleeping now. Her little lips were making sucking motions. Paul's eyes filled with tears again. She should be on her mother's breast now feeding, and he would be there with them, holding them both. Lilyanne needed to be with her mother... He felt panic rising again. He closed his eyes and leaned his head against the wall breathing in and out.
Charlie patted his arm. "She'll pull through, son."
Paul moved up from the floor and went to sit on an armchair. He opened his shirt and unpeeled the blanket his tiny daughter was wrapped in. Lilyanne stretched her limps and made quiet mouse-like noises. Paul's heart filled with enormous love when he watched his tiny baby girl.
He lifted her from his lap and placed her carefully on his bare chest. The nurse said that skin-on-skin contact was the best thing for them both. He covered his daughter with his shirt. Her warm body felt soothing against his chest. He inhaled the scent on her head. It was the second-best scent in the world, just after Bella.
"Doctors haven't told me shit," Paul said to Charlie and Paula, who had found chairs to sit on. "The nurses who come to check on us don't know shit." Paul and Lilyanne had a private room, so they had privacy under this stressful situation. That is what it was for people looking outside: a stressful situation. For him and his daughter, it was a matter of life and death. But no one had come to tell them how Bella was doing. He was anxiously waiting for the door to open, both with hope and absolute dread.
"Are you able to tell what you do know?" Charlie asked.
Paul looked at his tiny daughter. She was so beautiful. She had her mother's facial features, but her hair was just like his. The eyes, now closed, were deep and dark newborn eyes.
"Um... when I came home..." Paul shut his eyes. He would never forget the sight as long he lived. "She was lying on the floor next to the kitchen island. She was … she was bleeding badly and was unconscious. I... called the ambulance, and I don't remember much after that."
"Oh, Paul," Paula said. "I can't understand this. I had just visited her half an hour before the ambulance came, and she seemed fine. She..." Paula stopped looking at him and continued, "...she had a little shock in the shop earlier and..."
"What shock?" Paul asked. Bella hadn't told him that something had happened when he called her maybe an hour before coming home.
"I think she needs to tell that herself. It's not for me to tell. But everything seemed fine with her," Paula told him.
Paul's mind was reeling. What had happened? He turned his eyes to his daughter, and his eyes blurred again.
"What we'll do if...," he tried to swallow the lump rising to his throat, "if she... dies?" he asked.
"She won't," Charlie said. "She won't die."
Paul wanted to believe that. He had to believe that.
Paula's heart broke when she watched Paul with his newborn baby. She felt responsible for what had happened. She should not have let Bella out of her sight. But Paula knew that her stepdaughter was stubborn, and there had been little else she could have done; the store had been hectic, and everybody wanted to ask her questions. Needed something from her.
And Paula hadn't been too worried about Bella either. She looked fine after the initial shock of meeting Paul's mother, and when she went to check on her, she was preparing tea for herself. They had talked little about Paul's mother, and then Paula had left to the store to wrap things up for the day.
And then this terrible thing happened. Paula did blame herself.
Poor Paul. Paula could not tell him now what had happened. He had too much on his plate already. He didn't need to know his mother had come to look for him after more than 15 years of abandoning him. Not now. It would be best for him to hear it from Bella. Bella would know how to tell him, and she would when she was recovered. She would recover.
Paula's eyes filled with tears when she looked at the tiny baby. Her dark thick hair was peeking under Paul's shirt. The little elf-like baby was the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen. Holding her had been a gift. Being part of this little family was a gift. This family would survive and live a long and happy life; they must.
Charlie was hovering over Paul and the baby. Paula could see that he was very close to collapsing. His utmost fear of something happening to his dear daughter had happened, and being unable to do anything was eating him up. Paula had called him right after she had realized that the ambulance had come for Bella. But Charlie had been in a situation room and hadn't got her message until two and half hours later. By then, Paula had found out where Bella was taken, and they'd rushed to the hospital.
Not knowing what had happened was the most terrifying thing Paula had ever lived through. They didn't tell her anything over the phone. When Charlie called the hospital, they told him that his daughter was brought in and was in surgery and that the baby was healthy and doing fine and was with the father.
Paula decided to go to look for someone who could tell them what the situation with Bella was. She probably wouldn't find out anything, but sitting here not doing anything was driving her mad.
"Charlie, I go look for someone who knows something, okay. I'll come back soon."
Charlie looked at her with his bloodshot eyes and nodded.
Charlie was barely holding it together. But he had to. He had to be strong for Paul and his granddaughter. Bella would want him to be there for her family.
His granddaughter. Charlie's heart swelled looking at her. Apart from the ink-black hair, she looked exactly like her mother had when she was born. Charlie still remembered that day almost 23 years ago like it was yesterday. It had been the happiest day of his life.
He looked at grief-stricken Paul. Today should be his happiest day.
"Paul. Do you want me to hold her for a while?" Charlie was aching to hold his granddaughter, but he did understand that Paul needed her more.
"Not now, Charlie," Paul said, not taking his eyes off the baby. "She's sleeping peacefully."
"Maybe later then?"
To see Paul's devotion to his daughter melted Charlie's heart. Paul would not let anyone ever hurt her in any way. Paul was the best man Charlie could ever think of for his daughter and granddaughter. He would keep them safe and happy. He felt so ashamed of how he'd felt when Bella started dating him.
The door opened, and both men turned their heads to see who was coming.
"How are we doing here?" a nurse asked, smiling.
"Any news?" Paul asked.
The nurse shook her head and came to see Paul and the baby.
"When she wakes up next time, you can feed her," the nurse said to Paul. "Let me know by pressing this button, and I'll bring the milk. There are a couple of ways to do it. We can attach the tube into your finger so she can suck it and get to feed, or we can even use the nipple shield so she can suck the milk through it."
Paul looked at the nurse and then back at his baby.
"I don't know," Paul said with a tired voice. "What do you think is the best?"
"We could try the nipple shield. It imitates the actual breastfeeding."
"Yeah. Let's do that," Paul said.
"It is good for her that you keep her against your skin. She knows your voice, and heartbeat is a familiar sound that soothes her."
Charlie saw the nurse watching Paul and the baby for a while. A single tear fell on her cheek.
"Is everything okay with the baby?" Charlie asked. He guessed all was good; she wouldn't be here with Paul without constant medical supervision if there were any doubt about her health. But he needed to hear it.
"Yes," the nurse said, wiping the tear off her cheek. "She is a bit on the smaller size, but she wasn't affected in any way by what happened. She is as healthy as they come. And her mother will make it. I'm sure," the nurse said, giving him a reassuring smile. She made some markings on the clipboard hanging on the wall and left.
Charlie went to look at the clipboard. He wanted to know the time his granddaughter was born. It said 6 lb 11 oz, 18,5 in. Time 6.32 pm.
Mother Bella Marie Lahote, Father Paul Jerome Lahote.
He turned around and saw that Paul had closed his eyes and rested his head against the armchair's backrest.
"Take a nap, son. I won't go anywhere before they tell us Bella is fine."
Paul nodded slightly, and Charlie hoped he could get some sleep.
He walked closer to them and looked at the tiny baby on Paul's chest. His eyes welled with tears. She was so beautiful. She had her other hand on her dad's chest, and the other pressed tightly against her tiny face like it had been while still inside her mother, only a few hours ago. Paul's hands were protectively over her little body.
Charlie carefully touched the forehead of his granddaughter. There was some vernix left on her forehead. Bella had told him only a few days ago that babies weren't bathed anymore after the birth, but the white stuff was left on their skin to protect it. It even helps them to breastfeed. Things had certainly changed from those days Bella was born. He could still remember her first bath right after she was born.
Then a thought occurred to him. Should he call Renée? Charlie didn't know if Bella and Paul wanted that. Later sure, but now? Bella and Paul had told him what had happened in Honolulu. He was so embarrassed by his ex-wife. She had always been very immature and reckless but making a pass on her son-in-law... Charlie shrugged. He never thought of her being that stupid. Had she always been like that? No, he would not call Renée. He would contact her only after talking with Bella and asking her what she wanted to do with her mother.
The door opened, and a tired-looking person, a doctor, came in.
Paul got up from his chair, holding his daughter tightly against his chest
"Paul Lahote?" the doctor asked.
"How's my wife?"
"She is in recovery. We almost lost her and had to do a hysterectomy to save her. She lost a lot of blood; it was the only way. I'm sorry."
Charlie's knees softened with relief, and he sat on the edge of the bed.
He did understand the gravity of what had to be done to save his girl, but Bella was alive. She would soon wake up to meet her daughter. That was all that mattered.
If you want to read something terribly sad, don't know why you would though, but if, read allie23o story Second Chances. That little one-shot inspired these events.