Because of course she did.
“Here.” She reached out, took Talon from my hands, and began rocking her. “You need rest. I’ll watch her.” The guilt I had from the fact that Talon so effortlessly seemed to calm down when she was in Lucy’s arms was strong.
“I can’t sleep,” I told her.
“No, you can. You’re choosing not to because you’re paranoid that something might happen to your daughter, which is a very reasonable reaction that I’m sure a lot of new parents go through. But, you’re not alone right now, Graham. I’m here.”
I hesitated, and she slightly nudged me in the shoulder. “Go. I can do this.”
“You said you’ve nannied before, right?”
“Yes, a set of twins and their little brother. I was there from the first week up until they went off to school. Graham, I promise you, Talon’s okay.”
“Okay.” I brushed my hand over my hairy chin and started in the direction of my bedroom. A shower sounded nice. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d showered—or eaten. When was my last meal? Do I even have food in my fridge? Is my fridge even still running?
Did I pay my bills? My phone hasn’t been shut off yet, which is a good sign, because I have to call Talon’s pediatrician in the morning.
Doctor’s appointment—I have to set up doctor’s appointments.
Nanny? I need to interview nannies.
“Shut up,” Lucy barked at me.
“I didn’t say anything.”
“No, but your mind is spinning with everything you could be doing instead of sleeping. Before you can be productive, you gotta rest, and, Graham?”
I turned to see her kind eyes staring my way. “Yes?”
“You’re doing everything right, you know, with your daughter.”
I cleared my throat and stuffed my hands into my jeans pockets. Laundry—when was the last time I did laundry? “She cries all the time. She’s not happy with me.”
Lucy laughed, the kind of laugh where she tossed her head backward and her smile stretched so far. She laughed too loud, and at the wrong times. “Babies cry, Graham. It’s normal. This is all new for both of you. It’s a brand-new world, and you both are doing the best you can to adjust.”
“She doesn’t cry with you.”
“Trust me.” Lucy grinned, looking down at the somewhat calm Talon in her hold. “Give her a few minutes and I’ll be begging for you to switch spots with me, so go. Go rest for a bit before I hand her back over.”
I nodded, and before I left, I cleared my throat once more. “I apologize.”
“The way I pushed you away this morning. It was rude, and for that I’m sorry.”
Her head tilted and she stared at me with questioning eyes. “Why do I feel like there are a million words floating around in your mind, but you only allow a certain number to escape?”
I didn’t reply.
As I stared at her rocking my daughter who was growing more and more upset, Lucy smiled and winked my way. “See? Told you. She’s just being a baby. I’ll take care of her for a while. You go ahead and take care of yourself.”
I thanked her in my mind, and she smiled as if she heard me.
The moment my head hit the pillow, I was fast asleep. I hadn’t known I was so tired until I truly had a moment to rest. It was as if my body melted into my mattress and sleep swallowed me whole. No nightmares or dreams found me, and for that, I was thankful.
It wasn’t until I heard Talon screaming that I tossed and turned in my bed. “Jane, can you get her?” I whispered, half asleep. Then my eyes opened and I glanced at the other side of my bed—it was still completely made, no wrinkles in the sheets. My hand grazed over the empty spot that reminded me I was in this alone.
I climbed out of bed, and as I walked through the hallways, I heard a soft whisper.
“You’re okay, you’re okay.”
The closer I grew to the nursery, the more the gentle voice calmed me. I stood in the doorway, watching Lucy as she held Talon and fed her.
Maybe in many ways, staring at my empty bed was a reminder that Jane was gone, but seeing Lucy before me was a small reminder that I wasn’t alone.
“Is she okay?” I asked, making Lucy turn, surprised.
“Oh, yeah. Just hungry, that’s all.” Her eyes traveled across my body. “I see you don’t smell like a sewer anymore.”
My hands ran through my still damp hair. “Yeah, I took a quick shower and a quicker nap.”
She nodded and walked over to me. “Want to feed her?”
“I—no. She doesn’t…”
Lucy nodded me over to the glider chair. “Sit.” I started to protest, but she shook her head. “Now.”
I did as she told me, and when I sat, she placed the baby in my arms. The moment the exchange happened, Talon started to cry, and I tried to quickly give her back to Lucy, but she refused to take her.
“You’re not going to break her.”
“She doesn’t like it when I hold her. She’s not comfortable.”
“No, you’re not comfortable, but you can do this, Graham. Just breathe and calm your energy.”
I grimaced. “Your hippie weirdo side is showing.”
“And your fear is showing,” she countered. She bent down, placed Talon’s bottle in my hand, and helped me feed her. After a few moments, Talon began to drink and calm down, her tired eyes closing. “You’re not going to break her, Graham.”
I hated how she could read my mind without my permission. I was terrified that each touch from me would be the one that would end Talon. My father once told me everything I touched, I ruined, and I was certain that would be the case with my baby.
I could hardly even get her to take a bottle, let alone raise her.
Lucy’s hand was still wrapped around mine as she helped me feed Talon. Her touch was soft, gentle, and surprisingly welcoming to my unwelcoming soul.
“What’s your greatest hope?”
Confusion hit me at her question. “What does that mean?”
“What’s your greatest hope for life?” she asked again. “My mother used to always ask us girls that question when we were kids.”
“I…I don’t hope.”
Her lips turned down, but I ignored her disappointment in my reply. I wasn’t a man to hope; I was a man who simply existed.
When Talon was finished with her bottle, I handed her to Lucy, who burped her then laid her back in her crib. We both stood over the crib, staring down at the resting child, but the knot that had been in my stomach since Talon was born remained.
She twisted a bit with a tiny grumpy look on her face before she relaxed into a deeper rest. I wondered if she dreamed while her eyes were shut, and if someday she’d have a greatest hope.
“Wow,” Lucy said, a tiny smile on her lips. “She definitely has your frown.”
I chuckled, making her turn my way.
“I’m sorry, did you just…” She pointed a finger at me and poked me in the arm. “Did Graham Russell just laugh?”