Authors: Amy Andrews
The nurse smiled. ‘Isaac,’ she repeated. ‘Ooh, that’s good. Strong. Noble.’ She looked down at the tiny baby in her care and said, ‘Welcome to the world, Isaac.’
Evie smiled through another spurt of tears as the nurse bustled away. She turned to face Finn. ‘Is that okay with you?’
Finn’s chest was so tight he thought it might just implode from the pressure. He was shocked to feel moisture stinging his eyes and a lump in his throat that barely allowed for the passage of air. He forced himself to look at her instead of turning away or blinking the tears back, like he’d done for so many years. He couldn’t even remember the last time he’d allowed himself to cry. Not even as the life had ebbed from his brother’s eyes had he broken down.
He’d just shut down. Gone numb.
And it had taken this woman and this tiny scrap of humanity to bring him back.
‘I think that would be quite wonderful,’ he whispered, his voice thick with emotion.
‘But could you hear it every day, Finn?’ she probed, her voice gentle. ‘Would it make you sad every day?’
Finn shook his head. ‘No. I’ve spent a decade of my life trying to forget what happened and all I’ve managed to do is erase all the good things as well. I think it’s time I remembered them also.’
Evie nodded, squeezing her hand. It sounded like a damn fine plan to her. ‘Do you think Lydia will mind?’
Finn smiled. ‘I think she’d be delighted.’
‘Good,’ Evie murmured. ‘Good. Isaac it is.’
They smiled at each other for a long moment then turned to gaze lovingly at their son. Finn slid a hand onto Evie’s shoulder. ‘I’ve been such an idiot,’ he said as he watched Isaac’s little puffy breaths kick his rib cage up and down.
‘You were grieving,’ Evie dismissed, also watching her son, trying to absorb every tiny detail about him.
‘I don’t mean that. I mean about what I said the other night. After we’d …’
‘Oh,’ Evie said, glancing at his profile. ‘That.’
‘All I have to do is look at him and I feel this incredible surge of love rise in me.’ Finn didn’t take his eyes off Isaac’s face. ‘And I don’t even know where it comes from or that I even had it in me but I do know that it’s deep and wide and unfathomable and if I live to be a hundred I’d never get to the bottom of it.’
He looked at Evie then and she was watching him so intently, and he needed her to know, to understand so she could never, ever doubt that he loved Isaac. ‘I was so, so worried that I wouldn’t, Evie. I was terrified. But it’s like … it’s just there. It’s suddenly just there.’
Evie felt his relief and wonder and even though she’d never really doubted that he would feel this way about his own flesh in blood he’d been so bleak, so convinced the other night when he’d left that she’d felt her first prickle of unease.
She smiled at him. ‘I know.’
‘It’s like a … miracle.’ He laughed. ‘This love is like a bloody miracle. It’s so different from anything I’ve ever felt before.’
Evie smiled but it felt forced in comparison to his obvious high. She was ecstatic that he knew what she’d always known—that he’d take to fatherhood, revel in it even. But part of her wished a little of that miracle was coming her way.
That he’d look at her and talk about the miracle of the love he felt for her. A very different love from what he was talking about now.
Because while Isaac needed Finn’s love, so did she. The kind of love that would fill her soul and warm her days.
A man’s love for a woman.
‘And you,’ Finn said, shaking his head, in awe of what she’d been through. ‘You are amazing. Incredible. What your body has done is truly awesome.’ He looked at his son, so small but so perfect. ‘Isaac and I are so lucky to have you and I’m going to spend the rest of my life taking care of you. Nothing … nothing will be too good for the mother of my child. I love you, Evie,’ he said, watching Isaac. ‘I couldn’t have picked a more perfect mother if I’d tried.’
Evie’s breath caught at the words she’d been waiting to hear ever since they’d met at that hospital function five years ago. And they felt so empty.
He was on his daddy high and she was the mother of his child swept up in the raw newness of him coming inside after a long cold winter.
Suddenly she felt overwhelmingly tired.
AN HOUR LATER, after Evie had expressed for the first time and they’d watch one mil of milk disappear down the gastric tube Finn had insisted that Evie go back to bed. She looked exhausted, the black rings around her eyes had increased, her shoulders had drooped and she was sleep staring at everything with long slow sleepy blinks.
He made a mental note to check her haemoglobin with Marco when he saw him later.
‘What about you?’ she protested. ‘You’ve been up since two with no sleep.’
‘Yes, but I haven’t given birth or had an emergency operation. I’ll catch some sleep tonight in my office if everything stays stable.’ He’d spent many a night on the surprisingly comfortable couch.
It felt wrong to leave Isaac but Bella and Lexi had eagerly volunteered to keep vigil while he pushed Evie back to her room and he had to admit it felt good to be out, stretching his legs.
She was quiet on the trip and his concern for her condition ramped up to another level. ‘Are you okay?’ he asked as he pulled the wheelchair up beside her bed, crouching down in front of her. ‘Have you got pain? Do you feel unwell?’ He placed his palm on her forehead, checking for a temperature.
Evie shut her eyes, allowing herself to lean into his hand for a few seconds. ‘I’m fine,’ she said, avoiding his gaze as she opened her eyes again. ‘Just tired.’
He frowned as she seemed to evade eye contact. It seemed more than that. ‘You need to be rested and well for your milk production.’
Evie blinked. As a doctor, she understood what he was saying was correct. She’d told many a patient exactly that and she had the pamphlet in her hand to back it up. But it wasn’t what she wanted to hear him say. She wanted him to hug her, rub her back and tell her she was beautiful.
Which, of course, he wouldn’t, first because he was Finn and, second, she really wasn’t beautiful, more classically interesting, and last she doubted she’d ever looked worse. Although she guessed it didn’t really matter what you looked like when you’d stopped being a woman and become the milk supply line for a premmie baby.
‘I see you’re going to be the milk police,’ she said, her voice brittle.
Finn chose his words carefully to her irritable response. There
something bugging her. ‘Colostrum is vital for Isaac’s immune system.’
Evie took a steadying breath as despair and animosity battled it out inside her. This was typical Finn in tunnel-vision medical mode. All about the facts.
‘Yes, I know,’ she said, scooting him aside so she could crawl onto her freshly made bed. She almost groaned out loud as the crisp white sheets melted against her skin like snowflakes and all her cells sighed in unison.
Finn stood up and watched as Evie’s eyes fluttered shut. He had the distinct feeling she was trying to block him out. ‘Evie …?’
He hesitated, not really knowing how to voice his concerns to a woman who was probably experiencing a hormone surge not unlike Chernobyl’s meltdown. Even if he did love her.
‘You seem … down … and you know PND can start very early post-partum and it’s particularly high in mothers with premmies.’
There he went with the facts again
. ‘Finn,’ she said sharply, opening her eyes and piercing him with her cranky hazel gaze. ‘I’ve just given birth to a twenty-eight-weeker who’s in the NICU and I’m two floors away. I feel like an utter failure and my arms
ache to hold him. Yes, I’m
. No, I
have postnatal depression.’
Finn sat on the side of the bed. ‘Oh, Evie …’ He reached for her hand.
Evie really did not want to be pitied so she evaded his reach. ‘Look, just go, will you, Finn? Go back to Isaac. I’m tired and not thinking straight. I’m sure I’ll feel a lot better after a sleep.’
Finn opened his mouth to say something but Marco entered the room, greeting them in his usual jovial way. ‘How are you feeling, Evie?’
‘Tired,’ Finn murmured.
Evie glared at him. ‘A little tired, otherwise fine.’
‘What’s her haemoglobin, Marco?’ Finn asked.
‘Ten point nine,’ Marco said, not having to consult the chart in his hands. ‘She lost very little blood,’ he assured Finn, before turning to Evie and asking a couple more questions. ‘I think we take down that drip now and discharge you tomorrow morning if everything goes well overnight.’
Evie nodded, feeling ridiculously teary again at the thought of going home without Isaac. ‘I won’t be going far,’ she said.
‘Which makes me even more comfortable with discharging you.’ Marco smiled.
They chatted for a while longer, talking about Isaac, and Marco smiling over his own little one’s antics before he noticed Evie yawn. ‘I better get on,’ he said. ‘I’ll see you in the morning.’
Finn stood and shook his hand. ‘Thanks, Marco. You were brilliant last night.’
‘Yes,’ Evie agreed. ‘You were fabulous. I’ll never forget how you came in when you weren’t on call.’
Marco winked at her. ‘Anything for Evie Lockheart.’
Finn rolled his eyes. ‘I bet you say that to all your mothers.’
Evie shut her eyes as Marco chuckled and Finn once again relegated her to a role instead of a person. Would he ever see her as a woman again? Love her as a woman? Or would he always just love her because she was the mother of his child?
‘But thanks,’ Finn continued. ‘Evie’s right. I owe you.’
Marco chuckled. ‘I hope that is something I never have to collect on. My cholesterol is good and there is no cardiac history in my family.’
‘Well, how about I buy you a beer at Pete’s as soon as Isaac is home instead?’
Marco nodded. ‘It’s a deal. Although let’s make it a red wine instead—just to be sure.’
Marco left and Evie faked a yawn. She had the sudden urge to bury her head under the covers and not come out. Maybe Finn was right. Maybe she was going through those baby blues a little early.
‘I’ll go too,’ he said, satisfied to see her already look a little less exhausted around her eyes, even if she did seem to still be avoiding eye contact. He sat on the side of the bed again. ‘Ring me after you’ve had a sleep and I can come back and get you.’
Evie nodded, a lump in her throat at the tenderness in his voice. Then he leaned forward and pressed a chaste kiss on her forehead. He stood and said, ‘I love you, Evie,’ before walking out the door.
Evie let the tears come then. She wasn’t sure what had been more heartbreaking, his throwaway line about loving her or the kiss currently air-drying on her forehead. His declaration of love—his second—was about as heartfelt as that kiss. Something he might bestow on an aged great-aunt with whiskers growing out of her chin.
Asexual. Perfunctionary. Expected.
Was that what she had to look forward to now she was a
? Some idealised figure who was a nurturer. And nothing else?
Finn was going to put her on some bloody pedestal and turn her into something holy and untouchable.
After a full night’s sleep Evie was almost feeling human again at barely five a.m. as she crept down to the NICU by herself to visit with her little man and do some more expressing. Finn was there, still maintaining his vigil beside Isaac’s incubator, and for a moment she just stood in the doorway, watching him watch their son.
Her heart squeezed painfully in her chest at the sight. She could feel Finn’s love for Isaac rolling off him in waves, encompassing the cot and the tiny little scrap of humanity inside it as if he was the most precious child that had ever lived. The area around the cot practically glowed with the force field of Finn’s love.
It was exactly what she’d wanted. And yet she was suddenly incredibly jealous.
Which was selfish, hateful and greedy
And she had to let it go because their son needed her to concentrate on him and his needs and the long haul ahead. Not on any insecurities over Finn. And this morning at least she was feeling more in charge of herself to do just that.
She shuffled forward in her slippers and slid her hand onto Finn’s shoulder. He turned and looked up at her and he looked so weary and sexy she plastered a smile on her face.
‘Morning,’ she murmured. ‘How’s our little warrior?’
Finn smiled back, hopping out of his chair for her to sit in. ‘He’s doing well. They’ve reduced his oxygen. He’s coping.’
‘Did you sleep?’ she asked.
‘No,’ the nurse piped up.
‘I dozed on and off,’ Finn corrected her.
Evie looked up at him standing beside her. He looked like he hadn’t slept in a hundred years—his lines had lines. ‘You look exhausted,’ she said.
‘I’m fine.’ Finn brushed his tiredness aside. ‘
, on the other hand, look much, much better.’
‘I feel a hundred per cent better,’ she admitted.
Finn squeezed her shoulder. He’d been worried about her yesterday but she looked like the old Evie and he felt one of his worries lift. ‘Good.’