-*- Saturday, January 25, 2014 -*-
-*- Lake Quivira, Kansas -*-
(Three Years Ago // Flashback)
"In my defense, I did not grow up with a trailer, okay?"
Bob (Alexa's father) laughed uproariously at me as I tried to
explain myself, perhaps save face, in front my beloved wife.
"So, when Bob asked me..."
"When you said you had fun," Alexa grinned my way, "did
something happen? Did you wreck the trailer?"
"No," Bob answered for me, still chuckling.
"Big B wanted to have a laugh," I explained, "so he had
me back up the trailer into his back yard."
"Did you film it?" Alexa giggled, hopeful.
"Well, I only had to do a 100 point turn," I elaborated.
"That's all I had to do, but then Big B was like, okay,
Jeremy, I've had enough. I'll do it for you. You go inside
and shower, get all washed up, I'll do the man's work."
"That's funny!" Alexa squealed, seated against the wall on
the floor just outside of our bedroom, her slender, coltish
legs fully extended. Alexa was in her post-childbirth glory,
of course, looking absolutely beautiful holding our infant son,
Cooper, who was born a mere two weeks ago. "That's funny..."
"How are you feeling?" I asked Alexa, changing the subject.
"What have you and the little man been up to?"
"I was sitting on the couch earlier, nursing Cooper, and I
was watching _Finding Nemo_ on television. And it's like, I
literally felt like I was in Heaven." A happy, free spirit
with a love for all things _Disney_, Alexa was a connoisseur
of their animated movies and features. Even now at 22, she had
never outgrown her love for _Disney_. I had even taken her to
_Disneyland_ and _Disneyworld_ on separate occasions.
To punctuate her prior statement, Alexa tilted her head
back against the wall and sighed quite dramatically. "It
was like... ohhhhh. I LOVE being with my sweet baby!" She
tilted her lips down and showered Cooper with angel kisses.
"Hi," Alexa swooned at him. "Hi, honey!"
She then pointed up at Bob. "Cooper, Grandpa is here! Are
you excited? Grandpa is here!" Alexa continued to rock our
infant son. "Oh, you had fun with Grandma yesterday, didn't
you? Remember, Cooper? Grandma stopped by yesterday to visit
you; we made soup and bread, and she stayed the night!" Indeed,
Alexa's mother - Angela - stayed with us last evening, and Bob
swung by this morning to pick her up and take her back home.
Yet I went with them and left Alexa here with Cooper for a
few hours because Bob asked me for a huge favor. He had 900
pounds of yard waste to haul off to the landfill and asked me
if I would help him unload it. I could not turn him down.
The little hiccup with me trying to maneuver the detachable
trailer where Bob wanted it in his yard in Overland Park not
withstanding, it was a pretty smooth and easy task.
I leaned over and gently took our newborn son from Alexa's
loving arms, but that did not seem to go over too well with
Cooper. "Oh, darn it!" I laughed, now cradling him close to
my face. "You were grabbin' onto Mommy's hair, weren't you?
You didn't want to let go!" I pouted for an instant and shook
my head at him. "Do you NOT want me to hold you? I'm sorry,
bud, but you're gonna have to get used to it. Okay? Because
I'm going to hold you until you won't be held ANYMORE!" Now,
it was my turn to rain kisses down upon Cooper.
"Did YOU send me that picture earlier, Cooper, while
Grandpa and I were at the landfill?" I then asked him. "Oh,
that was a good picture! I LOVED seeing that picture of you
throwing up on Mommy like you threw up on me two nights ago.
I want more pictures like that in the future! Okay?" I
laughed, having fun. "You promise you can do that for me?"
"Nooooo..." Alexa protested, albeit playfully.
When I handed Cooper off to Grandpa, Bob grinned at us and
said, "I gotta go!" Then he abruptly turned and began walking
away as if he was leaving, and taking his grandson with him.
Alexa quickly stood up. "Hey, leave that..." She giggled
and began following after her father. "Leave that baby here!
I've got to feed him!" Alexa screeched and followed Bob into
the kitchen, and boxed him into a corner.
"How do I get out of here?" Bob said quickly, chuckling,
trying to pace back and forth.
Alexa was still laughing too. "There's not many places to
hide in this house!"
"But I want to take Cooper home with me!"
"DAD!" Alexa whined, stepping him up to him. "Come on.
Hand over that baby. He's MINE!" Alexa seemed to melt as
she took our adorable little child into her arms and cradled
him with extreme care. "Oh Cooper, you smell so good! Mommy
loves you! Yes, Mommy loves you so much! Grandpa, too!"
I still find it difficult to believe, but I was actually a
father now. Cooper was born just a shade over two weeks ago,
on the date of January 9, 2014. He was my first and only child
(thus far), of course, but what should have been a happy and
joyous experience with my young wife instead turned into utter
chaos for a few days, teeming with unique and scary challenges.
A week before her due date, Alexa began to feel what she
thought were the twinges of early labor. Yet Alexa's water
had not broken, and she did not think it was anything serious.
We tried to relax at home and watch a movie but, within
minutes, Alexa was doubled over. I massaged her back, and
then helped her take a warm shower. Nothing seemed to
relieve the rapidly escalating pain. Alexa was bleeding at
this point, and could barely stand up.
As a certified physician with years of medical training
and expertise, I did not feel that Alexa needed to be taken
to the hospital. Even when Alexa screamed that she had to
push, I did not believe that she was in labor. None of the
tell-tale signs were there. She was only dilated to a two,
and I was convinced that this was just a scare.
Less than an hour later, Alexa really began to complain
about the pain and discomfort, and wondered how much more of
it she could withstand. I checked her again. Alexa was
suddenly dilated to a ten. I had heard stories before in
my research and training, yet I never knew of a woman, or
a patient, who went from a stable two to a full ten in less
than an hour without any other noticeable signs of being in
labor. Her water had still not even broken yet. Alexa
wanted to go to the hospital because of the pain. I told her
that she was fully dilated. Just like that, in a very short
amount of time, everything changed.
I did not even realize that Alexa was in full-blown labor
until it was far too late. There was no time to even rush
her to the hospital.
"If we leave now," I explained to my pregnant wife, "you
are going to have this baby in the back of an ambulance. Or
even worse, my car."
I quickly set up my emergency home-birth equipment in our
bedroom, and when Alexa climbed onto the bed, the baby was
already crowning. Her water had just broken, too. Doctor
mode kicked in for me and, at least on the outside, I was
cool, calm and collected. I had to be for Alexa, and our
baby. Yet on the inside, I was scared senseless, freaking
out. My son was about to be born, and I was forced into the
role of having to deliver him without the proper medical
equipment and instruments to help soothe my wife, and him.
Just five minutes and three pushes later, Cooper was born.
Just like that. The entire labor and delivery process took
less than an hour and 15 minutes. We had already decided to
name him Cooper William [Last Name].
Such a dramatic and incredibly compressed, fast labor was
very rare; it was called precipitous labor. Only about two
percent of babies arrive within this three hour time window,
and Alexa was the first case I had actually witnessed (or
even knew of) first-hand. None of my patients had ever
experienced such an ordeal, either. There is no known cause
for it, and nothing we could have done to help prevent it.
During precipitous labor, there is a very real danger of
excess fetal stress (the baby literally gets no break from
contractions), increased risk of postpartum hemorrhage, and
long-term, significant physical and emotional challenges.
As a result, though Cooper turned out perfectly healthy
and fine (the hospital gave him a clean bill of health after
he and Alexa were quickly rushed there in an ambulance), Alexa
underwent a tremendous amount of emotional stress and turmoil
during the birthing process. She did not have access to any
pain medication and actually went into shock for two hours
once Cooper was born. To give you an idea of what it was
like, Alexa did not even hold Cooper until four hours had
passed. _I_ was the one who held and comforted Cooper for
three hours straight while the medical staff at the hospital
tended to Alexa and the many, severe complications she faced.
Sometime during the delivery, Alexa suffered what was
later classified as a second-degree cervical laceration.
Her perineal muscle was torn, and she lost a lot of blood,
and needed immediate medical assistance when reaching the
hospital. It was bad, yes, but fortunately not so severe
that she required extensive surgery to repair it.
The situation did seem to get any better at first, and
in the hours that followed, Alexa lost even more blood, and
was ultimately diagnosed with postpartum hemorrhage (PPH).
The placenta, a pancake-shaped organ within her uterus that
provided nutrients for Cooper via the umbilical cord, did
not separate like it should have after birth. The caregivers
actually removed Alexa's placenta manually (e.g. by hand) and
performed a procedure called dilation and curettage (D&C) to
remove some leftover fragments. Without the placenta blocking
it, Alexa's uterus contracted and closed quickly after the
procedure, stemming some of the blood flow.
Yet Alexa still had the cervical tear to deal with, and
my beleaguered wife was in and out of the hospital two times
for postpartum hemorrhage in the days following her release.
All the while, Cooper was perfectly fine. He displayed no
ill effects of the rushed, rapid delivery process.
It was hard to keep Alexa down, though, with how positive
and energetic she was. Now a full two weeks removed from giving
birth, the bleeding had all but ceased, and that scary first
week now seemed like a distant memory. Alexa absolutely refused
to dwell on anything negative, though, and was getting back to
her normal and cheery self with every passing day.
Still, she had to be extra cautious. It would be a minimum
of ten weeks post-childbirth before the doctor would even
consider allowing Alexa to return to normal, daily activities.
I was keeping a close and watchful on her too, of course.
What this basically meant, for example, was that Alexa had to
abstain from any sexual contact for two-and-a-half months.
For most women after birth, it was just six to eight weeks.
Also, Alexa was not permitted to do any of her regular
yoga exercises, or train with weights. This nearly crushed
her at first, even moreso than the no sex rule. Alexa loved
physical fitness and being in shape. She was employed as a
fitness instructor at a nearby health club, and even continued
to train with weights here at home deep into her pregnancy.
Physical fitness had been a part of Alexa's life and daily
routine since she was a teen-ager. It was hard-wired into her
DNA. The woman was like a living, breathing, nautilus machine.
Now 22, Alexa was going stir-crazy on certain days, unable to
pursue her fitness passion. Fortunately, she had Cooper to
keep her busy in the meantime, and so much love and warmth
from her parents and friends, and yours truly.
I had faith that Alexa would ultimately be okay.
Before Bob left us on this Saturday morning and went back
home to his wife in Overland Park, he hugged Alexa and had a
stern reminder for her. "You eat, you drink, a LOT."
Still holding Cooper, Alexa nodded with total respect
toward Bob. "I will, Dad. I promise."
After her father departed, I watched Alexa tear into my
last remaining pastry snack and devour it like it was hers.
She then looked at me and offered a playful sneer. "That
giant cupcake I just ate, Jeremy, is a perfect example of what
happens when you leave a giant cupcake alone in the kitchen."
I stared at Alexa, nonplussed. "But that was MY cupcake!
I was going to have it before dinner tonight."
"It's not your cupcake anymore," Alexa giggled, twirling a
loose swirl of yellow, sunrise-gold hair around her finger
and throwing up a one-shouldered shrug. She then patted her
abdomen and seemed satisfied. "It's mine, baby!"
I gazed back at Alexa with narrow eyes, not happy, but
actually fine. Our family rule was that everything in the
kitchen was fair game. I would never withhold or preclude
Alexa from any treats or goodies in the kitchen. Still, it
was the last cupcake! It looked so yummy earlier...
"Let's... go... to the mall," Alexa then mused, singing.
She glanced down at Cooper, our two-week-old son, who was
swaddled up all nice and tight within her arms. "Hi there!
Is this your first time? First time going to the mall?"
Actually, it would be Cooper's first time in a public
place, other than the doctor's office or hospital, since he
was born back on January 9. I had to return something to
_Oak Park Mall_, a retail mall outlet located in the same
city where Alexa grew up and her parents still resided
(Overland Park, Kansas). I had just left there with Bob.
But Alexa was a bit antsy and riled up, and needed to get
out of the house for awhile. She asked me earlier if she
could accompany me to the mall after Bob and I finished the
unloading job. How could I possibly turn her down?
Cooper let out a deep, sleepy yawn as Alexa stared down
at him in wonder. "Daddy and I are takin' you, little cutie,
to the mall." She rained kisses down on the precious, tiny
infant. "It will be our first official Daddy-Mommy-son date!
Yay!" Alexa turned and focused on me. "I'm really looking
forward to testing out the new stroller! You know, Jeremy, the
one we got online two months ago. We haven't had a chance to
use it yet. Today will be our first chance!"
"Yeah, we haven't used the stroller yet," I said, "so it
will be kind of fun to see how we like it. Or, even if we
do at all." My voice suddenly turned all deep and serious.
"What if we DON'T like the stroller?"
"We'll like the stroller," Alexa insisted.
"We liked it on the computer, didn't we?" I relented.
Alexa was kissing Cooper again. "Yup."
90 minutes later, Alexa and I were browsing the mall, and
we had my wife's best friend (Merissa) on speakerphone. "So
we're totally fighting over who gets to push Cooper," I
informed Merissa. "It's so not fair right now."
Alexa, who had both hands on the stroller, smiled and
glanced at my smartphone. "Momma gets to push him!"
"I'm the dad. I'm the one who should be doin' the work."
"Hmmmmm... let's see what he looks like." Alexa pulled
back the hard roof cover of the stroller, and handsome, suave
Cooper was there with his beanie hat on and eyes closed.
"Oh, he's asleep now. Look at him!"
"Send me a picture with your phone!" Merissa begged us.
"He didn't seem to like the lights earlier," I then told
Merissa. "These lights in the mall, they're so bright, with
this blue hue... Cooper is so not used to that."
"Awwwww," Merissa pined in response.
"Selfies!" Alexa chirped, as we walked by a young couple
taking a picture together with their own smartphone.
"Why don't you come over to the house and hang out with us
tonight?" Alexa suggested to Merissa. "You can stay warm by
the fireplace, and you and I could bake up some brownies!
What do you say, Merissa? Stay with us tonight!"
"Oh, I'd love to, but I can't," was her response. "I have
plans with Grayson. I promised the night to him already."
Suddenly upset, Alexa stayed silent, but made a serious
face. Even though Merissa was her best friend and she was
going to marry her fiance, Grayson, in just a few months,
Alexa absolutely HATED him. They all grew up and went to school
together here in Overland Park and, even when Merissa began
dating Grayson six years ago, Alexa did not approve of him
then, either. She never approved of him, never trusted him.
Now, with the knowledge that Grayson, a former star athlete
in high school, violently shoved Merissa to the ground and left
her bloodied in a mad, jealous rage three months ago, Alexa's
viewpoint for him was at an all-time low. The police got
involved and it was a big, major ordeal. Grayson had sought
counseling for the incident and Merissa had since forgiven him,
as she was loyal and loved him, but I did not particularly
trust the man either. Grayson was a ticking time bomb and,
when provoked, I knew his anger would explode again. I just
hoped and prayed that Merissa would not be caught in the
crossfire, because I had a feeling that Grayson was capable
of inflicting far more damage on her.
"You should just come over and hang out with us," Alexa
told Merissa, trying to insist in a nice way. In other words,
Alexa was telling Merissa that she was better off spending
the night chumming with us than going out with her fiance.
"Lexi, I can't. I love Grayson and I'm not going to dump
out on him tonight just so I can hang out and watch television
with you and Jeremy, make brownies with you."
Alexa was pouting. "But Cooper wants to see you..."
"The allure of being around Cooper is amazing, and strong,
but not quite strong enough to pull me away from Grayson. And
oh, that's an adorable picture of Cooper you just sent to me!"
After a few moments, Alexa was walking throughout the mall
rather briskly, guiding the stroller. "It's so smooth!"
I laughed as I put my phone away, the discussion with
Merissa now over. Merissa had shunned Alexa and was going
out with her fiance tonight. Really, who could blame her?
Personally, I would not pass up the opportunity to spend time
with Alexa - the love of my life - in favor of anyone else.
Why should Merissa, even if both Alexa and I did not approve
of or trust Grayson? Merissa did, and that's all that matters.
"You seem a little overly excited for pushing it, honey."
"I love that I'm pushing Cooper in his stroller!" she beamed.
"It's my baby boy! I'm pushing my baby boy."
I grinned. "Cooper is doing really good. I'm surprised that
he has been so calm thus far."
Soon, it was my turn to push the stroller. Finally!
"One thing I forgot to bring," Alexa mused, "is my little
clips to hook the diaper bag onto the stroller. I should
have brought them, because the diaper bag is pretty heavy."
"Well, let me hold it for you," I countered. "You know us
concerned doctors don't want you lifting anything heavy, or
straining yourself. I will take the sacrifice and carry the
diaper bag for you, and push the stroller at the same time."
"Okay," she gave in.
"What the heck is that?" I asked shortly thereafter, as
Alexa ran over to a huge, free-standing stuffed giraffe in
the _Toys R Us_ located in the Oak Park Mall main complex.
The toy animal looked very similar to George, the stuffed
giraffe which I had recently purchased as a gift for Alexa.
Oddly enough, she had a certain affinity for giraffes, too,
and had quite a varied collection of stuffed ones at home.
"It's George's girlfriend!" Alexa insisted, her hand on
its long neck. The stuffed giraffe was almost as tall as
she was! Alexa then noticed a sign dangling from its neck
that asked customers _please don't ride me_. "People keep
riding her, so they have to put signs on her, asking them
not to." My wife then stole quick, suspicious glances in
all different directions.
"What George's girlfriend's name?" Instead of answering
me, Alexa swung one leg over the back of the giraffe, her
eyes still darting to see if any employees noticed her. "Oh,
you rebel!" I exclaimed, yet keeping my voice low. "You
rebel!" Alexa hopped around in a circle, riding the giraffe.
"Get off of that! They're going to kick us out."
Alexa eventually put the giraffe back on its display stand,
unscathed, yet still hugged its long neck and head to her.
"Look, Jeremy! We could call her Deep Throat!"
"LEXI!" I scolded her, glancing about to make sure no one
had heard her. "Stop that! That giraffe needs a real name.
What is it? Jeanette the Giraffe?"
"I don't know," Alexa responded, seemingly lost in thought.
"George's girlfriend's name is..."
"Gina the Giraffe?"
Alexa perked up at my suggestion. "Yeah!" Being playful,
Alexa stepped away and then used Gina's head as if it was a
speed punching bag, her fists flying like a skilled boxer.
"Oh Alexa, stop!" I laughed at her. "You're seriously
going to get us kicked out. They must hate us already."
Just then, Alexa and I noticed that Cooper's eyes were
open, and he was yawning. Suddenly, our newborn sneezed.
"Oooooh!" I gushed, my focus changing to him. "Bless you."
"That was a big sneeze!" Alexa squealed, tickling Cooper's
cheek with an extended finger. She began to make tsking noises
with her mouth; tsk, tsk, tsk, and Cooper reacted favorably.
"He likes his Momma, huh?"
"I barked at him the other day and he cried," Alexa mewed.
"Ruff ruff ruff! Ruff! Rawr! RAWR!"
"He likes it now," I observed, my hand on Cooper's arm.
"We gotta toughen you up!" Alexa told him. "You, little
Mister Cooper, kept us up a lot last night, because you were
SNORING! You were snoring, baby boy!"
"Bob and I were talking earlier," I offered, "and I was like
wow, Cooper's snoring was keeping us awake. But I was like,
and Bob was laughing, I was like, that's a good problem to
have. Like, Alexa and I have waited so long for this, I told
him. We actually have a baby together now."
"And I'm done!" Alexa giggled. "No more! No, I'm only
kidding. Our baby boy at least needs a sister, too! I'm
just afraid of going through all those complications again."
"Cooper is such a blessing!" I said. "He is finally here
with us, yet he was snoring, keeping us awake last night.
Bob just couldn't help but to laugh earlier, and remind me
what a blessing that is."
"It was cute, too," Alexa nodded. "Was a loud snore."
I began doing a ridiculous, awful dance not only in front
of Alexa and Cooper, but anyone else who bothered to look
our way in the toy store. But, I did not care. It was fun.
"Teach me how to Dougie!" I sang. "Teach me, teach me how
to Dougie! Teach me how to Dougie! Teach me how to Dougie!"
Alexa stared back at me, wide-eyed. "You keep dancing and
getting your SWAG on, Jeremy, and they really will kick us
out of the store. You're going to scare all of the children!
Crazy, old man dancing near the teddy bear display in the toy
store!" Nevertheless, Alexa started dancing too, mimicking me.
"Teach me how to Dougie! Teach me, teach me how to Dougie!
Oh, yeeeeeah!" Yet she looked so much better doing it...
Seconds later, Alexa tossed her right arm around my neck
and shoulder, and pressed the side of her face against mine.
"Love you!" she proclaimed loudly. "Love you so much!"
"Love you too," I reciprocated, and we kissed sweetly.
I was reminded of what Bob, Alexa's father, said to her
this morning just prior to him to leaving our house - "You
eat, you drink, a LOT" - as my wife and I, along with Cooper,
later walked by a sporting goods store in the mall. Alexa
stopped for a moment and seemed to frown as she gazed at a
collection of weight training dumb-bells in the big display
case window of the sporting goods store.
So much of Alexa's existence in the past seven-plus years
was dedicated to weight training and physical fitness. She
was frail and tiny at a mere 5-foot-1 and 102 pounds prior to
becoming pregnant, but had plenty of lean, muscle definition,
and was in incredible shape. It really depressed Alexa that
due to the massive complications that she suffered while
giving birth to Cooper, she was not allowed to touch weights
or do any strenuous exercising until further notice.
Because if you ask Alexa, physical fitness saved her life.
Without it, she would not be alive today.
While she was growing up, Alexa battled an eating disorder
(anorexia nervosa) that, with complications of its own, came
within an eyelash of killing her at the age of 15. Alexa was
constantly hungry, yet had an intense fear of becoming
overweight when she was in high school. Alexa had strange
eating habits, only doing it when others were not around.
Alexa absolutely refused to eat in front of her parents.
She was sick; had an illness. Even at a mere 90 pounds, she
constantly popped laxatives and diet pills as if they were
candy. Alexa went through spells of self-starvation and
excessive weight loss for several years, coming to a head one
fateful evening when her parents took her to the hospital in
2007 (with her kicking and screaming in protest) for help.
"You eat, you drink, a LOT," Bob reminded her this morning.
After going from 90 pounds to a meager 60 pounds as a
15-year-old in just a six week span, the medical personnel
at _Children's Mercy Hospital_ in Kansas City informed Alexa
and her parents that she was on the brink of dying that evening.
Not from anorexia itself, but due to the damage the illness had
caused to her heart over the past several years.
She was suffering from bradycardia, an abnormally slow
heartbeat. Most people, their hearts beat 60 to 100 times
per minute. Anything within that range is considered normal,
healthy. Alexa's was down to 28, and she was just hours away
from entering cardiac arrest. As a 15-year-old. She was
incredibly weak and listless, despite her protests. It was so
gravely bad that the doctors would not even allow her to fall
asleep for fear that her heart rate may drop even lower until
they were able to raise and stabilize it through medication.
"You eat, you drink, a LOT."
It was on that date - July 12, 2007 - Alexa made a vow to
herself, and her parents. If she were to come out of this
ordeal alive and with her health intact, things were going to
change. Alexa made the decision to finally come to terms and
love herself, take care of herself, and simply not care about
outside influences or forces telling her otherwise.
Yet it was a long, slow process. Alexa spent several weeks
at children's hospital. Every little bite of food she ate was
a step forward, a minor victory, on the road to overall health
and recovery. Her mother, Angela, took time off of work and
basically lived in the hospital room by her side. Mother and
daughter finally bonded, and became great friends. Alexa went
through physical therapy and saw visits from literally 20
different doctors, or specialists, every single day.
"You eat, you drink, a LOT."
Bob and Angela actually went through some marriage problems
around this time as well. The fact that they came so close to
losing their little girl played a major role in their issues,
too. Yet things worked out for them, and their marriage
survived. Today, Bob and Angela's relationship is thriving.
To help achieve her goal of reaching 100 pounds, once she
was released from the hospital, Alexa took up physical fitness
and weight training. It was something that she really enjoyed,
actually, yet also incredibly healthy for her at the same time.
She went on a proper, strict diet, and the added muscle mass
and overall eating changes helped her reach that magic number
of 100 in less than a year. Alexa never looked back, either,
having maintained that benchmark for six years straight now.
She even pursued a career in physical fitness, becoming a
certified trainer at a local health club.
"You eat, you drink, a LOT."
But Bob and Angela constantly worried about her, and they
were especially on edge now that Alexa had just given birth,
and had excess pounds to shed for the first time in her life.
They were perpetually fearful that she would go into a relapse.
It was vitally important that Alexa continued to eat properly.
Especially now, with her body in another recovery phase.
Angela even made me promise before Alexa and I were married
that I would ALWAYS keep a watchful eye on her; her weight,
what she ate and how much, if she ever skipped any meals.
The anorexia illness - that DISEASE - had gripped Alexa so
powerfully in the past. A relapse was always possible.
Alexa had stayed true to her promise, though, and ate
normal and healthy. In the (near) four years we had been
together, I had never seen any issues or red flags with her.
Alexa asked me before we were married if I would check and
monitor her weight every single day for the rest of her life.
Even if we had an argument and were at odds, Alexa said, she
wanted me to check her weight on the scale every single day.
Alexa went to visit a dietitian once every four weeks, and
also a cardiologist every few months for routine check-ups.
I had even been known to hook her up to the heart monitoring
equipment at my own medical practice and check on her from
time to time. As her husband and a professional caregiver, I
was not about to let anything bad happen to Alexa ever again.
Not if I could help control it, at least.
"You eat, you drink, a LOT."
"Come on, honey," I said to Alexa, putting an arm around
her shoulder and guiding her away from the weight training
equipment in the display window at the sporting goods store.
Physical fitness, she believed, saved her life. "You'll be
able to start working out again in about two months when
that torn perineal muscle you have is fully healed." I shook
my head and shivered. "The last thing we need is for you to
push yourself, and start hemorrhaging again."
Yet Alexa was a tad bit emotional now, perhaps remembering
the troubles of her past. "Can we get something to eat?"
I smiled at her. "Of course we can."
* * *
I blinked a couple of times on purpose to force myself to
refocus on the words in front of me. It was Saturday night
now and I was back home with Alexa and Cooper, and I was
reviewing recent patient files and cases from my medical
practice. I had taken the last two weeks off since Cooper's
birth and did not intend to work next week, either. Mike,
my best friend and a fellow internist, had been seeing all
of my patients. Still, even with everything that had gone
on as of late, I had been looking at case charts and files on
a nightly basis. My patients were very, very important to
me, and this was my way of keeping up to date with their
ongoing care. I knew that they were in good hands with Mike,
although he and I did not always agree on everything.
"Why did he up her _hydrochlorothiazide_ dosage from 100
to 150 micrograms?" I said out loud, my eyes wide, as I stared
at a specific chart. "That makes no sense!" Upset and not
understanding, I took a magazine from the computer desk and
angrily tossed it elsewhere in the home office.
And suddenly, that same magazine landed on my desk next to
me with a thud. Before I could reach for it, or turn around
to solve the sneaky mystery, two hands found my shoulders from
behind and began to knead, massaging thoroughly. Just at the
initial contact, I paused and instantly yielded in surrender
as my aching muscles, and my anxiety over the past two weeks,
were both silenced with the most wonderful, soothing relief.
"Oh my, that feels amazing," I said, my eyes closed.
"It must. You're incredibly tense, and you've had a rough
few weeks. Everyone has seemed to forget that, except me."
At the sound of Alexa's voice, I opened my eyes and turned my
head to look back at her. Alexa was so incredibly beautiful
right now; a brand new, proud mother with that amazing, tender
afterbirth glow still very much intact. We had our issues
with the delivery, yes, but were hopeful that those trials
and tribulations would ultimately bring us closer together.
"Hey, you. How did you..."
"I snuck in like a top secret spy, undetected." Alexa
continued to massage my shoulders. "I think it's kind of a
big deal, actually, me and my big, post-baby belly infiltrating
your office and all, like a high-tech, stealthed spy! I get
to play the super spy, and you are the enemy! It's very
James Bond. You should call me that. Bond. Alexa Bond."
I tugged Alexa's arm, gently pulling her into my lap.
"Miss Bond, if I am your enemy, know that the enemy likes
you." I nuzzled Alexa's neck and inhaled the wonderful
aroma of peaches and vanilla that came with Alexa. "A lot."
"Duly noted. Not a hostile greeting at all." Alexa
cradled my face in her hands and stared down at me. "So, hi."
"Hey," I whispered back. "I imagine you finished feeding
Cooper and he is down napping for awhile in his crib?"
She smiled. "Yes."
Alexa found my lips in a kiss that made all of the aches
and pains from my body just fade away into nothingness.
Obviously, she was feeling in quite a chipper and lively
mood after our afternoon spent at the mall and then a nice,
high quality restaurant.
When the kiss was over, Alexa glanced around in interest,
taking in the room. "What are you doing here in your home
office on a Saturday night in the middle of a long vacation?
STOP worrying about Mike and every little detail with your
patients. You can revert back whatever he changes when you go
back in a week to work if you want to. You're still the big
boss there." Alexa giggled at those words, but then strolled
over to the large window. It was still light out, but the day
was starting to definitely wane. "This little town we live in
is so peaceful... so perfect."
I stared after Alexa, feeling infinitely better that she
had decided to grace me with her presence this evening.
"What are we doing tonight?" she asked. "You and I?
Cuddle in front of the fireplace? It's supposed to go down
to 24 degrees later tonight. How about watch a movie? I'm
always up for a good horror flick."
"I thought you'd go to bed early because you were feeling
a little _blah_ once we got home from the restaurant."
Alexa turned back toward me and scoffed at those words.
"Sleep? No way. Not yet. I want to have some fun tonight...
need to keep working back toward my normal routine. It would
be amazing if Mom was here, like she was last night. I had
so much fun cooking with her, staying up and talking to her."
"So you're saying that you want to spend a little time
alone with me tonight, and then we go to bed together?" I
asked, liking where this discussion was headed.
"Do you want to hear what I am thinking?"
"I get you one last mommy snack from the kitchen - whatever
you want - and we talk about how our life is about to forever
change, for the better. And trust me, Alexa, it will change.
We can talk about Cooper and what it's going to be like raising
him. I should also mention that throughout most of that
conversation we flirt, because I'm really attracted to you,
and you are me, too. My eyes spend a lot of time staring into
those gorgeous, expressive blue eyes of yours, and your eyes
seem to focus on my lips - kind of like the way they're doing
right about now. We talk, we flirt, we make out a little."
Alexa moaned with anticipation. "And then what?"
"What would you like?"
"You rip my clothes off and have your way with me. Or
vice versa. I think both have their merits."
I moved to Alexa and placed my hands upon her abdomen,
and made slow circles with my thumbs. "Can I just say that
I love it that you showed up here unannounced like this? We
have had a troublesome last two weeks, obviously, but you
being here right now makes everything better." I dipped my
head to kiss Alexa, but her eyes gleamed and she swiftly
sidestepped the effort, crossing back to the desk. Very much
like a skilled spy. "Don't get ahead of yourself, Jeremy.
You have cheesecake to feed me, and we need to flirt first."
"Of course. Nothing says flirting more than cheesecake."
"And unfortunately," Alexa pouted, "we cannot do the whole
ripping my clothes off and you having your way with me thing."
"That's true," I nodded. Again, Alexa would probably not
be cleared for sexual activity for at least another two months.
Her body had a lot of healing to do from giving birth and all
of the hemorrhaging that happened afterward.
"Do you have work you need to finish?"
I glanced at the computer and then back at Alexa. "I do,
but it can wait. I can look at patient files another time."
"In all honesty, I can wait too," Alexa informed me. "How
about I sit on this comfortable sofa over here and you finish
critiquing your best friend of a doctor and his decisions?
It's kind of cute, watching you get all worked up and angry."
I eyed her as she sat down happily on the sofa. "If you're
sure you don't mind, I suppose I can study a bit more."
"Do I look unhappy?"
I stared back at her. "You look fucking hot."
Alexa laughed. "You're supposed to be studying, remember?
You must continue to question Mike. Or something like that."
"Right. Right. Something like that..."
The office drifted into silence, and I tried to refocus on
reviewing the most recent patients and their visits. But
before long, it seemed to me that Alexa's plan had surely
backfired. Sitting in a silent room, with very little to do
(aside from reading and typing) except sneak peaks of Alexa in
her post-maternity top and jogging shorts, with those tanned legs
on display as she fidgeted away on her smartphone, was torturous.
I tried my best to type out a few notes for Mrs. Edlestein,
an elderly patient, yet when Alexa bit her lower lip, I imagined
what my hands would feel like on her body. As Alexa toyed with
her hair, twirling several loose strands around an extended
finger, I imagined slowly undressing her. The influx of naughty
images flashing throughout my mind caused me to shift noticeably
in my chair, and it drew Alexa's attention immediately.
"You okay, baby?"
I nodded at her. "I'm good." A total lie.
Alexa went back to her smartphone and, although I did a
little reading, I continued to watch her. My libido was now
my worst enemy; I could not drive the racy thoughts from my
mind. How could I go two more long, agonizing months before
I could love my wife properly again? Finally, I sighed in
frustration and when Alexa glanced up this time, I did not
mask my emotions with a false front.
Alexa reclined further into the sofa. "I know that look."
"You should," I grinned. "I would tell you to come over
here, but you seem to have strict rules. Something about
cheesecake first. A post-pregnant woman craving cheesecake.
And then, of course, those OTHER rules."
Alexa titled her head back and forth several times in
playful succession. "Cheesecake is overrated." She then
sneered at me. "And YOU, Dr. Killjoy, would enforce those
OTHER rules about me staying medically celibate."
I smiled at her. "Come over here. There are no rules
against you and I making out."
This time, there was no way Alexa could turn me down.
She closed the short distance between us, stopping next to
me and leaning against the side of the desk. "I really love
to flirt with you, Jeremy. Teasing you is so incredibly fun."
I chuckled gently. "Yeah?" I eased Alexa back until she
was seated on the edge of the desk, and then I moved in front
of her. "You know I've been watching you this whole time?"
Alexa giggled. "Of course. It was so obvious."
I ran my hands from the 22-year-old's knees to her thighs,
stopping just short at the fabric of her jogging shorts. Alexa
hitched in a breath and her blue eyes darkened a shade or two,
and the alluring response only seemed to intensify the already
massive need I felt. I needed a proper release so bad...
I tilted my head and kissed Alexa softly, lovingly. Her
blonde hair was down tonight, and it tickled my neck in the
most erotic way. I eased my tongue into her mouth and found
her own, exploring its many, tasty recesses. Yet Alexa pulled
away and caught my chin when I opened my mouth, silencing me,
and then switched her grip to caress my neck.
"Can I say something, Jeremy?"
I nodded my head at her.
"In the past three-and-a-half years, you have made me the
happiest woman on the face of the planet." Alexa seemed
somewhat emotional again - common for her nowadays - so I
decided to only nod, and stay silent. She had more to say,
and I wanted to hear it. I wanted to hear everything.
"Jeremy, baby, I love sitting across the breakfast table
from you every morning. I even love eating your burnt toast
and overcooked eggs while we talk about the silliest of things.
I look forward to laughing with you, crying with you, even
fighting with you... as all couples do when they are in love,
and stay together. I love seeing you first thing in the
morning, with a truly horrendous case of bed-head, simply
because you're waking up next to me. I want to watch the
gray come into your hair as you get older. 30 years from
now, I want us to go and visit our grandkids - Cooper's sons,
his daughters. We will have at least one more child too, I
promise. I swear it. Cooper won't be the only one."
Alexa sniffed her nose, but then smiled. "Thank you so
much for helping me overcome my fears, my anxieties, my
nightmares from the past. Cooper is finally here! I
cannot wait to embark and continue on this next journey
in our life... together. I love you, Jeremy. I love you
more than you'll ever know."
I smiled at her. "I love you too, Alexa. I've loved you
since the instant I first met you in the coffee shop."
Just then, my smartphone buzzed.
Alexa squinted her eyes and bit her lip, the incoming call
interrupting what had been a very tender and special exchange.
"Who is it? Who is calling you on a Saturday night?"
"Mike," I responded, looking at the caller ID on my phone.
My friend, the fellow doctor. Yet I swiped at the screen and
sent the call to voicemail. Whatever it was, it could wait.
I had much more important matters to deal with right now.
I made a motion to kiss Alexa, but then my phone rang again.
And again, it was Mike calling. In the middle of the ringing,
I actually received a text message from him. "working a shift
at the ER at KUMC,,,,,answer the phone!!,, its important!@#!"
Alexa noticed the text, and seemed puzzled. I tried to
answer the telephone this time, but the line was dead. Thus
I dialed Mike's own telephone number to see what was up.
"The hospital was a little short-handed, so I offered to
come in and help out in the emergency room tonight," Mike
told me. "Nothing you haven't done yourself in the past,
Jeremy. Anyways, man, it's Merissa. Merissa was brought
here a few hours ago, and she is in bad, bad shape, man."
"Merissa? WHAT?" Alexa's best friend? A good friend of
mine, too? Merissa was brought to the hospital earlier and
was in _bad, bad shape_? What happened to her?
"MERISSA?" Alexa screeched, suddenly worried, tilting my
phone outward so she too could listen.
"I don't know all the details, but word from the police and
the paramedics is that Grayson dude really roughed her up
tonight." Alexa gasped and brought both hands to her mouth as
she stepped away, and stared at me in complete and total shock.
Abject horror, even. I put Mike on speaker. "You can barely
recognize Merissa, man. She's got a broken jaw, at least, and
they just wired it shut a few moments ago. She's all beaten
and battered. It's really bad, man. Real bad. She was brought
here in an ambulance and was unconscious upon arrival."
"MIKE!" Alexa screamed at the very top of her lungs. "Mike,
WHAT THE FUCK? MIKE! MIIIIIKE! TELL ME THAT MERISSA IS GOING
TO BE OKAY! Oh God, please tell me she's going to be okay!"
"I don't know, Lexi. I don't know. I thought I would call
and let you and Jeremy know so you could come and visit her."
* * *
Alexa cradled Cooper in her arms as she and I burst through
the emergency room doors an hour or so later. Alexa was shaking;
her mind refused to process the prior telephone call from Mike.
She had been crying non-stop during the entire car ride to the
hospital from our home in Lake Quivira and did not understand
what was going on. Merissa was in the hospital? Grayson had
apparently snapped yet again, and physically assaulted her?
"My sister, Merissa [Last Name], she was brought in. Domestic
violence incident," Alexa said through her tears to the woman
behind the registration desk. Alexa and Merissa were obviously
not sisters, but I figured that Alexa used that lie as a way to
possibly get in, and see Merissa quicker.
"She is in the intensive care unit, in room 6-B," the older
woman frowned, obviously sensing Alexa's despair. "Was just
taken there after several hours in the trauma center."
A tall, African-American nurse came from around the corner.
"Mrs. [Last Name], please, come with me. Unfortunately, the
baby will have to wait here. Can your... I suppose he is your
husband? Can your husband stay and watch him?"
Alexa shot a helpless look toward me. Her blue eyes were
red and swollen, and what little mascara she had on ran in
messy streaks down her cheeks. I did not want to stay behind
and watch after Cooper. I wanted to see Merissa, too!
Just then, Mike emerged from behind the corner as well. He
came out to the waiting room and took Cooper from Alexa's
arms. "Go. I've got him," he told us, motioning for me to
follow them. "Go, Jeremy, man. I'll stay out here and keep
an eye on the pip squeak. You go be with your friend."
"Mike!" Alexa wailed. "Oh my God, what happened? Oh God,
Mike. What happened to Merissa?"
Mike's eyes filled with remorse as he bounced Cooper in his
arms and shook his head. "She should have never gotten back
with Grayson after he put his hands on her the first time."
"MIKE!" Alexa demanded. "What happened?"
"Mrs. [Last Name]?" the African-American nurse spoke softly.
"Come with me if you want to see your sister."
"She's really bad off, Lexi," Mike simply said. "Just go
and see her. Grayson beat her up. He beat her up bad. She
needs you. You're her best friend, the closest family that
she has since her mom and brothers moved off to Georgia two
years ago." He pointed toward the nurse. "You have to go
up there to the ICU. Go and be with Merissa. Now, Lexi."
Moments later, I held my wife's hand as we stood in the
long corridor of medical rooms in the ICU. "Lexi? It's
okay, honey. We can wait. When you're ready, you let me
know." We both stared at the entrance to Merissa's room,
a mere three doors away from where we stood. "Your mom and
dad will be here soon, and Bob is going to take over
watching Cooper in the waiting room while Angela comes up
here to visit. Everything is going to be okay."
"That's Merissa's room," Alexa said weakly, her eyes
fixated on the door. A nurse and two attendants in scrubs
hurried past us and literally flew through Merissa's door.
Alexa looked at me like the world was ending.
"Lexi, why don't you sit down for a bit, and I'll go
talk to the head nurse. She's a friend, and I know her."
"Did she die? OH GOD! Did Merissa die?" Alexa's voice
rose as others in the corridor stared at her. Seeing the
nurse and two attendants hurry into Merissa's room set off
a panicky reaction within Alexa. Her voice was flat and dry.
"Is Merissa dead? Someone PLEASE tell me what's going on!"
The head nurse, someone I once worked beside in the past,
came over to us. "Give the doctor some space," Mindy said
to Alexa. She smiled for an instant at me, offering a silent
greeting after four years of not seeing each other. "Is
Merissa your friend? Family, perhaps? The doctor is in
there with her now. Give them some space, some privacy."
"Oh my God!" Alexa shrieked. "Is she...?"
"She's awake," nurse Mindy assured us. "She woke up."
Alexa let out another loud, feverish cry. "The police have
been in and out, but they cannot gather much of anything
from her. Her jaw is broken and it's wired shut, and she
cannot talk at all because of the excess bruising." Mindy
sighed and shook her head. "Whomever did this to her is a
very foul and despicable person."
"Merissa is my best friend and I LOVE HER!" Alexa cried
at the nurse. "I have to see her!"
"Let the doctor finish first."
When I noticed a pile of medical charts in the plastic
holder just outside of Merissa's room, I took a step toward
it, but hesitated and glanced back at Mindy. She nodded her
head at me and I snatched the records and quickly scanned
them before someone else in the ICU may object and make me
stop. I read through the medical jargon with ease.
A comminuted mandibular fracture. What, part of Merissa's
jawbone was shattered into fragments? That fucking bastard
hit Merissa THAT hard with a closed fist? A scaphoid fracture
of the right wrist. WHAT THE FUCK? My mind raced through the
possibilities. Scaphoid fractures usually happen when someone
falls on their outstretched hand, their weight landing on their
palm. Did Merissa break her wrist upon tumbling to the floor
only after Grayson had punched her, and shattered her jawbone?
A grade three concussion? Grade three was the worst type
of concussion and meant that Merissa had lost consciousness.
How was her brain functioning? Did she know who she was?
Could she answer simple, basic questions? Severe facial
bruising and trauma. A periorbital hematoma, or a black eye.
Grayson must have punched her twice, at least.
The two fractures - both her jaw and her wrist - would
require surgeries to repair them, I already knew.
"How the hell does Merissa have acute pulmonary edema?" I
asked out loud, as the attending physician emerged from the
room and snatched the charts from me. The doctor seemed angry
at first, but then recognized me. Ken and I were not friends,
per se, but we were business acquaintances and I worked with
him a few times in the past. I once worked at this hospital,
and subbed in like Mike was doing now in the emergency room on
select occasions. I knew Ken, and he knew me.
"Jeremy [Last Name]? Are you friends with Miss [Last Name]?"
"She's my SISTER!" Alexa roared at Ken, latching onto my side.
"And Jeremy is my HUSBAND!"
"How can Merissa have excess fluid buildup in her lungs from
a domestic violence assault?" I asked him.
"The poor girl was put into a choke-hold and was strangulated
for several seconds." Ken pressed the medical charts back into
my chest, giving them to me. "I don't see how someone can do
such a thing to another human being. It's reprehensible."
I looked up moments later as Angela, Alexa's mother,
stepped into the room. Angela's face went white as she took
in the sight of Merissa, lying with her head back, a thick
white tube down her throat and an EKG monitor strapped across
her chest with wires running to a machine by her bedside.
Another monitor was attached to her index finger, and an I-V
snaked from her arm. Heavy bandages covered more than half
of Merissa's face, which was swollen and black with bruises.
Her right forearm had a cast on it that completely shielded
her wrist and all of her fingers.
Alexa sat on the near side of the bed, holding Merissa's
good hand, tears still streaming down her cheeks. Angela
took a step inside the room, looking sick to her stomach.
Alexa turned to face her mother. Her eyes were wet and
puffy, and her slim, upturned nose was pink from crying.
Alexa's hair was a tangled mess. Her shirt had come untucked
from her sweat pants and hung awkwardly from one side.
"Mom," she whispered.
Angela quivered. "I'm so sorry," she said through her
tears. "Your father is with Cooper right now in the waiting
room of the ER. He says that if Cooper needs you, honey, he
will call you immediately. Right now, Cooper is sleeping."
"Okay," Alexa managed, clutching a handful of tissues in
her trembling hand.
"I put a telephone call out to Michelle, Merissa's mother,
in Georgia," Angela added. "She is flying out with her two
boys - Merissa's brothers - tonight. They will be here as
soon as they possibly can. They're... beside themselves."
Alexa squeezed Merissa's hand as she now slept as well,
heavily sedated. "You hear that, sweetie? Your mom is coming
to see you. Rick and Colton too." Yet Merissa did not stir
or move; the machine beside her simply beeped in a constant,
eerie cadence, a gruesome reminder of her condition. Fresh,
new sobs ripped from Alexa's chest.
Angela knelt down and grabbed Alexa by the shoulders, and
hugged her. Yet when Alexa put her chin on Angela's shoulder,
she looked squarely at me. My wife's eyes were suddenly filled
with venom, pure hatred. Alexa's thin lips curled downward
into the most angry, evil frown I had ever witnessed. "Grayson
did this! THAT FUCKING GRAYSON!" Alexa's expression relented,
and she then covered her face. "This is wh-why I tried t-t-to
tell Merissa for YEARS that... th-that... that Grayson was..."
Sobs swallowed her voice, and she broke down yet again.