Authors: Rhonda Marks
“I don’t know, Elise. I’m afraid to hope. What if he’s not her father? Then we’d have to rely on the donor list and you know that’s not looking good.”
“So, we’re not going to think about it then. I’m putting my money on this Javier fellow. He’s got to be her father and a perfect match for the transplant.”
“From your lips to God’s ear.”
The two friends continued to sit next to each other for the next several minutes without speaking. That’s one of the many things Nitika loved about Elise. There was no pressure to make small talk, which was something she was horrible at anyhow. “Do you think the hospital could put a rush on the paternity test?” Elise asked after a while.”
“I’m going to speak to Dr. Mott first thing in the morning. Time is of the essence. Tesia’s barely tolerating the chemo.” She took a deep breath to calm herself. “We’ve got to do this transplant soon.”
The two friends finished off their drinks and dropped the empty cups into the trash. Elise walked with Nitika back to Tesia’s room and stood outside the window watching her sleep.
“Well, thanks for stopping by and listening to me
complain,” Nitika said while taking her friend’s hands in hers.
“You know you can call on me anytime.” She gave Nitika a long hug and then a kiss on the forehead. “I love you.”
“And I love you too. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
“And you’ll never have to worry about that.” Elise blew a kiss in Tesia’s direction then headed for the elevator.
Feeling as if a two-ton boulder was on her shoulders, Nitika eased into her daughter’s room and slipped off her shoes. The recliner transformed into a twin-sized bed with the press of a button, and once her head hit the pillow, Nitika was sound asleep.
get right on it, Rob.” Javier let out a sigh of relief when his boss finally hung up. He needed to get to the hospital to see Tesia. The doctor called earlier to say that he was definitely her father. Part of him was thrilled to know he sired that beautiful child and brought so much happiness to her mother. But he also felt like the weight of the world was pressing down on him. Was he a match for his daughter? Could his stem cell save her life?
Originally the clinic director said it would take at least three days to confirm paternity, but luckily they were able to obtain the results in a little over a day. Due to the necessity of acting quickly on the matter, their request was expedited. Hopefully the same will be done to determine if he could be a
stem cell donor.
little downtime he had since learning about Tesia and her condition, he’d done a ton of research on leukemia and knew that even with the transplant she would have an uphill battle for a complete recovery. A lump lodged itself in his throat thinking about the pain she was now suffering and would continue to experience for a while. If he was getting this emotional about the little girl and he hadn’t even met her yet, he could only imagine what her mother was going through.
The last thing on his mind should be his attraction to the woman, but he couldn’t control himself.
Breathtaking. That’s the only word he could come up to adequately describe her. He shook his head and tried to return his concentration on Tesia and her plight. Anything else was a waste of his time. He needed to concentrate on getting his daughter well.
Soon he stood before the oncologist’s office and knocked on the closed door. “Come in!” Javier pushed the door open and found the doctor sitting behind his desk and Nitika in a chair nearby, her hands clasped in her lap and a pinched look on her face. What he wouldn’t give to take her worries away.
“Good morning, everyone,” he announced as he took the seat next to hers. She simply nodded and returned her gaze to her folded hands.
“Glad you could make it, Mr. Crespo.”
“Please, doctor. Call me Javier.”
“Alright, well let’s get down to business.” This caused Nitika to look up at the doctor and then at him. He gave her a small smile which she tried to return.
“Your Tesia is a strong young lady and is handling the chemo treatments relatively well, considering her age. Her white cell count is still too high, but we’re working on that.”
“She looks so sick, doctor,” Nitika said in a tiny voice. “That medication is taking a toll on her.” She covered her mouth with a hand and squeezed her eyes shut. A tear slid out from one corner and before he could stop himself, Javier reached over and wiped it away with the pad of his thumb. She flinched and gave him side eye, but other than that, did not move.
“I know, Nitika, and I’m so sorry, but it’s part of the process we have to go through to heal her. Especially since we’re hoping to do this stem cell transplant. The chemo must be completed first, then the whole body radiation.”
“How many more rounds will she have to go through?” Javier asked while continuing to gaze at her mother. She was still looking forlorn, lost. This discussion had to be tearing her apart.
“Not sure yet. But I definitely want to get you tested as soon as possible to see if you’re a possible match.”
“Can we do it today?
Now?” Nitika asked, her hands shaking.
Javier nodded in agreement. “I’m ready.” He gave her a wink which seemed to settle her down a bit.
“Let me make a couple calls. The lab usually wants a heads up before I send someone to them for this test. Can you excuse me for a sec?” The doctor turned to his phone and made a call, allowing Javier time to talk with Nitika.
“How are you today?” He wanted to slap himself for that inane question. One look at her and he could see she was barely holding it together.
“Well, I’ve seen better days. At least she got some rest last night.”
“How about you?
Did you get some sleep?”
“A couple hours, I guess. Since her room doesn’t have an outer window, sometimes I can’t tell day from night.”
“Do you mind, I mean, can I meet her? I know these aren’t ideal circumstances, but—”
After we finish here, we’ll go see her.”
could respond, the doctor hung up the phone. “They can do the test in about an hour, okay?”
Javier let out a loud breath and smiled at Nitika. “Sounds like a plan. In the meanwhile, I think I want to meet my daughter.”
“So, tell me how you got the diagnosis?” Javier
speared Nitika with a quick glance as they walked toward Tesia’s hospital room. She hadn’t spoken a word since leaving the oncologist’s office, just rubbing her hands and looking at the tops of her shoes. Although they hadn’t spent a lot of time together, he’d noticed she did that a lot.
When he thought she wasn’t going to answer, she spoke, her voice quivering. “She came home from school one day exhausted. Usually Tesia’s a ball of energy from the time she rises in the morning until it
’s time to go to bed. Instead of running into the kitchen for a snack, she dragged herself to her bedroom and fell fast asleep. I brushed it off as her having a hard day at school and didn’t pursue it.
“Then I started to notice bruising all over her body and I really got alarmed. I took her to her pediatrician the next day and she ran a few tests. Told me it would take about a week for us to get the results. The very next day she called and asked me to rush my baby to the hospital for more tests. After that, it’s all a blur.” She stopped in the middle of the hallway, pulled out
some tissue from her pants pocket and wiped at her eyes. “We’ve been here ever since.”
Javier heart sank listening to how his little girl transformed from a rambunctious five year old to one fighting for her life. And the woman in front of him has to be holding it together by a thread. Why doesn’t she have someone in her life sharing this burden? “How are you doing? I mean, I know this is tearing you apart.”
She took a moment to blow her nose and tossed the used tissue in a nearby trash can. “Truthfully, I’m not. When I’m with her, I do my best to appear strong. It’s a serious struggle, but I’m all she has.”
Javier wanted to say ‘not anymore’ but not now. Not yet.
“Any relatives or friends to help?”
“Loads of friends and co-workers, but no
close relatives.” She looked away and bit down on her lower lip.
He wouldn’t press her for more details. He didn’t have the right and now was not the time to pry. “What’s Tesia’s favorite color?”
Nitika smiled and pointed to her shoe strings. “Pink, of course.” They both laughed, lightening the mood a bit. “You should see her room at home. Looks like a pink monster invaded it and took up residence. Do you know how hard it is to find pink carpeting?”
“I’m guessing it wasn’t easy,” he chuckled.
“And it had to be a certain shade of pink, too. The carpet folks thought I’d lost my mind, but we found it and she loves—” Nitika choked up and this time Javier didn’t think twice about gathering her in his arms. She struggled a bit but eventually settled, and buried her face into his chest.
“It’s going to be alright,” he murmured while stroking her soft hair. They stood there in the middle of the busy hallway, hospital personnel side stepping them as the
y hurried to their next assignments. She felt so good in his arms and he tried to hide his disappointment when she pushed away after a few minutes.
“I’m so sorry for that,” she said shakily. “I usually don’t break down unless I’m alone.”
He spied a box of tissue on a table in the corner and pulled out a handful. He took a couple and gently dried the tears on her face. She looked up into his eyes and their gazes locked. Something he couldn’t name was in that look. Longing maybe? Just as quickly though, she turned her back to him and started down the hall. With two long strides, he caught up to her and soon they were in front of Tesia’s room. The curtains were open so they were able to see inside. His throat tightened as he watched a nurse attend to her, adjusting an IV in her tiny arm.
“We need to suit up to go inside,” Nitika said, breaking into his thoughts.
They cleaned their hands with a couple squirts of antibiotic lotion, then she handed him a pair of vinyl gloves and a mask which he carefully put on. Once both of them were dressed, he opened the door and allowed her to enter first. He held back and stood to the side as mother and daughter greeted each other with a touch of their hands. He adjusted his mask to hopefully hide the tear escaping from the corner of his eye.
gazed at him cautiously and turned to her mother. “Who’s he, Mommy? Another doctor?” She squirmed in her bed and tried to sit up a bit.
Nitika gently pushed
Tesia onto her back and patted her cheek. She then turned and gave Javier a slight nod of her head. “Um, baby, this is Mr. Crespo.” Her voice shook as she introduced him but she waved him forward.
On unsteady legs, he approached the bed and stood beside Nitika. Javier swallowed noisily before speaking.
She eyed him for a minute before turning to her mother then back to him. “Are you a friend of my mommy’s?”
Nitika quickly stepped in to take over the situation. “We just recently met, sweetie.”
“Why is he here?”
“Be nice, Tesia.”
Javier cleared his throat and took a seat on the other side of the bed. “Like your mom said, we’re new friends and I wanted to meet you.” That seemed to calm Tesia a bit, but he was entering unknown territory. What had he gotten himself into?
Nitika quickly rose from her chair and walked to the other side of the room to give father and daughter some privacy. Father and daughter. Wow. Those were two words she never thought she’d have to say. The plan to raise Tesia without the assistance of a man was probably in serious jeopardy now.
With them side by side, she could really see the resemblance between them. In addition to having the same hair color and type
, they also had the same hazel colored eyes. Yeah, there was certainly a good chance he was her father.
Her friends thought she’d lost her mind when she announced her intention to visit a sperm bank.
Particularly Elise, even though her friend knew her history. “Let me hook you up with a friend of mine.” Or her favorite, “There’s no rush. Take your time to find a good man.” Neither suggestion was taken seriously. Nitika wanted to give birth to a child, and other than the sperm, a man was not necessary.
She had few memories of her father, due to his workaholic ways. Sure, he came home almost every night, but only after she’d gone to bed.
And he generally left the house before she woke up. No doubt, he was a good provider. But he was a piss poor husband and father. She didn’t need that in her or Tesia’s lives.
“You’re nice, Mr. Crespo. Will you come and visit me every
day?” That question from Tesia caught her attention, making her head swivel in their direction. Javier looked at her, a questioning look in his eyes.
Nitika closed her eyes for a second, unsure of what to say. Was this man simply passing through their lives, stepping away once Tesia recovered? Until they spoke about this, she couldn’t let her child get her hopes up of having this man in her life. She slowly shook her head and noticed a flash of disappointment in his eyes.
“Mr. Crespo,” a nurse called out from the hallway. “They’re ready for you in the lab.”
Javier patted Tesia on the hand and started for the doo
r. “I’ll be back to see you when your mom says I can, okay?” He glanced at Nitika and winked, sending her heartbeat into a spin.
As soon as he exited the room, she took her place beside Tesia once more. Her little girl lay quietly on the bed, staring at the ceiling. “Are you okay, baby
“Mommy, how come I’ve never seen your friend before?” she asked in a whisper.
She took her hand and began to softly stroke it. Tesia was a very perceptive child, and had the uncanny ability to tell when she was being handed a story to keep her quiet. Should she tell her that Javier was her father? No, she needed to speak with him first. For now, she’d have to stick with the friend relationship.
“Me and Mr. Crespo met at work,” she smoothly lied, all the while avoiding Tesia’s curious stare. “When he heard about you not feeling well, he wanted to come see you.”
Her daughter twisted her lips but remained silent. Nitika held her breath, hoping she wouldn’t ask any more questions. She let it out slowly when Tesia gave her a short nod of her head.
“He’s a nice man, mommy. He should be your boyfriend.”
Nitika tilted her head and stared down at her daughter. “There will be no matchmaking today, little lady.” Suddenly the machine with her IV began to beep, signaling that it needed to be changed. When a nurse popped in to take care of it, Nitika took the opportunity to step into the hallway.
Would Javier return to the room after the tests, or leave the hospital? She gave herself a mental head slap and turned to watch how Tesia was doing. This man was here for one reason only
--to see if he is a match for Tesia. If he was, then once the deed was done, he could go back to wherever he came. If he wasn’t, he could return there sooner. His decision wouldn’t bother her in the least.