I'LL ALWAYS BE YOURS
After a while, I stopped blaming everyone else. Everything that I am is the simple result of everything that I've been. My choices are mine, have always been mine. I chose to dance with Sophie when I was seven. I chose to be honest with Annabelle, then papa, eventually maman and Lorraine. I chose to get a baccalaureate in education instead of dancing in LA. I chose to accept a job teaching kindergarten in the same small town where Sophie worked the mines. Annabelle says I'm a whipped moron for moving in with her. I say that I am who I am, and that I have no one to blame but myself.
But just for the sake of form, I'm totally blaming Wallace for everything. Everything that I am is because he managed to knock up his girlfriend one drunken night. I'd blame Marilyne for the situation, but it wasn't her fault the baby wanted out nine months later. Although I can blame her for suggesting they name Sophie the godmother.
Which was how I ended up speeding down snowy roads, a hysterical brunette babbling in the passenger seat.
"I mean, they're having a baby!" she shrieked.
"So you've mentioned," I mumbled to myself.
"A real boy!"
"It's what I've been led to believe."
"A person! A whole person! A breathing, swear-to-God, motherfu-"
"Okay, that's enough." I let go of the wheel with one hand to pat her thigh. "Breathe. Come on, deep breaths, just like we practised."
She huffed for a few moments, bordered hyperventilation for a while, then calmed down. I muttered a quick prayer of thanks. She had gone insane since the call that morning; a call which had mostly consisted of 'Marilyne's water broke' and Sophie fainting right after. By the time she'd regained consciousness, I'd packed the bags, filled the car with gas, and was ready to go.
Three hours later, and I was seriously considering murdering my best friend if she didn't shut up. Even if she was kind of adorable when she was flipping out.
"Katie..." she whined after two and a half seconds of silence. "Can't you go any faster?"
"No. I'm already twenty over."
"But the baby's coming."
"Her water just broke. The baby won't be here for a few hours. We won't miss it."
She pouted. Actually pouted. "You don't know that. You're not a doctor."
My hand left her thigh to wrestle with my phone. I speed-dialled the one person I knew who was a doctor.
She picked up on the fourth ring. "Dr Wolfe speaking."
"Hey, Annie," I said shortly, "are you busy right now?"
"I've been wrist-deep in some guy's bladder for the past two hours, but I guess I have a min-"
"Good," I cut her off and threw the phone in Sophie's lap. "Talk to her. Please."
The phone reached Sophie's ear and she blew out a hesitant 'hey'. I heard Annabelle's quizzical voice.
"Yeah," Sophie responded. "The baby's coming. My godkid is coming." She glanced in my direction. "Yeah, she's okay. Kinda looks like that time William put that weird pop song on repeat on the roadtrip to... yeah... yeah, okay." She turned to me. "She said I should apologize for being a... what was it, Annie?... Hey! That's insulting..." She rolled her eyes and lowered the phone. "Katie, I'm sorry."
My cheeks burn with the urge to smile. "Don't bother. You'll lose it the second we get close to the hospital." At the mention of the H-word, her breathing picked up and her grip tightened. "Annie!" I yelled so she could hear me. "Please tell Sophie why she shouldn't be freaking out."
Annabelle's voice floated to me and, by the clinical and measured tone, I knew she had reverted to Dr Wolfe, M.D. I highly doubted Sophie understood half the medical terms that were sure to pop out of our clever friend's mouth, but she listened nonetheless. I took a deep breath as her twitching muscles finally unclenched. I winced when I imagined what would have happened if I hadn't been there for the call, if Sophie was the one attempting the four and a half hour drive to the Sudbury General Hospital.
The mental pictures weren't pretty.
Annabelle managed to grant me twenty minutes of peace, talking pretty much nonstop. Sophie mumbled an affirmative or made grunting noises every few seconds. Finally, Sophie handed me the phone.
"Gotta go?" I asked.
"Yeah, my one o' clock is here," her voice was absolutely glum.
"Oh, trust me, colectomies are always exciting."
"Okay, gross," I scrunched my nose. "Thanks for talking to her."
"My pleasure," I heard her smirk. "I didn't do much, mostly threatened that I was kicking her ass if she didn't stop being an annoying moron."
"I'm sure she appreciated it. See ya soon?"
"Duh. Call me after the baby is actually born?"
"Sure thing. Love you!"
"Love you too."
I hung up and let the phone drop between the seats. Sophie eyed the road with stubborn intensity, willing it to crawl by quicker. I felt my lips quirk and I pushed on the accelerator, just a tad. It was enough to incite a deep, relieved breath from Sophie, who sunk in her seat.
"Happy now?" I asked teasingly.
She nodded. "Sorry," she apologized again, "I'm just really, really nervous." I hummed an invitation for her to continue. Her thigh twitched. "What if something goes wrong?"
"Voyons donc," I sighed exasperatedly, "hasn't Annie just explained to you how everything is going to be okay?"
Her shoulders slumped. "Yeah, but, like, what if?"
I reached across and grabbed her hand. "Everything is going to be fine."
She squeezed my fingers, painfully so, but lapsed into silence. Thick waves of fear rolled off of her. She hadn't demonstrated fear a single time since the announcement of Marilyne's pregnancy. No, after spending a good hour yelling at her brother and calling him a panoply of names that made me cringe to this day, she had transformed into a ball of support and excitement. She had helped them find a new apartment, painted the nursery, and I had only put my foot down when she had suggested baby-proofing our small flat in case they visited.
And now that the baby was coming, she was losing it.
I held her hand until the hospital loomed into view, at which point she began to shake and muttered 'oh God' over and over. You'd think she was the one going into labour. I let go of her hand to put the car into park and she practically threw herself out of the vehicle.
"Pour l'amour de... Sophie! Get back here!"
She stalled her mad dash to the building, allowing me to gather our purses and lock the car. I tossed her handbag at her while I caught up. Authoritatively, I trapped her hand with mine. She whined.
"You're doing the Annabelle glare."
"That's because you're acting like an imbecile. If you don't calm down, they'll lock you into the psych ward."
She deflated. "Yeah, you're definitely channelling Annabelle right now. I don't like it."
I lead us into the hospital, navigating us in the proper direction. "Then stop being stupid. Everything's going to be fine."
She bit her lip so hard I thought she might cut right through it. I internally shrugged. At least we were in a hospital, and maybe getting stitched up would finally calm her down. Or I could ask for sedatives.
Except that she looked so terrified – a shaking, hyperventilating mess – that I could only straighten my shoulders and let her lean on me.
The waiting room was abuzz with excited conversation. Half-emptied coffee cups littered every surface. Balloons and flowers occupied the spaces between the arms of the impatient. A man raised his hand to garner our attention and strutted towards us. Brown hair askew but blue eyes as clear as an early summer sky, William MacNeil was the perfect picture of the eager future-godfather.
He stretched out his arms. "There's the godmo... what happened to you?" Sophie just shook her head and he turned to me. "Did you run over a kitten on your way here or something?"
I giggled and wrapped my arms around his neck. "Hi Will. Sophie's just a bit nervous." He snorted and I winked conspiratorially. "How are the future parents doing?"
"Wallace was a bit high strung when they wheeled her in, but a shot of whiskey fixed that." His smirk revealed who had provided the liquor and I smacked his arm lightly. "Marilyne's doing fantastic."
"How far along is she?"
His teeth flashed with his excitement. "She's dilating real fast, they think she'll be able to start pushing in the hour."
Sophie finally deigned to make a sound then, but only to moan out: "Oh, God, I'm having a heart attack. I'm dying."
William and I stared silently as she crushed my fingers in her grip. Her older brother then boomed into laughter and fumbled into his pocket for his camera. I tried to smile enough for the both of us as he snapped a picture. That would be one for the albums.
The three of us sat down in chairs that were surprisingly comfortable, although they smelt of antiseptic. William and I small-talked through the minutes: how I found my new classroom, if the bar was still running well, how was Mister MacNeil doing now that he was back from Afghanistan for good, if they had decided on a name for the baby.
"They seemed pretty set on Robert," William supplied.
Sophie, who still hadn't let go of my hand, was suddenly quite animated. "What? As in, Robert the Bruce?"
"You know every MacNeil child is named after Scottish royalty. It's very important for mom and dad."
"Mom and dad are insane!" Colour had finally returned to her cheeks. I'd never felt more grateful for Sophie's short fuse. "They named their twins William and Wallace!"
He sniffed, obviously miffed. "So their knowledge of Scottish history is limited to what they've seen in Braveheart. It's still tradition."
"I won't let them name my godchild after a movie character! Especially not one directed by Mel Gibson!"
William's rebuttal – which would have been hilarious, I was certain – was cut off as a man ran through the doors and into the room. Brown hair askew but blue eyes as clear as an early...
William and Wallace are twins. Enough said.
Wallace's cheeks were flushed and his forehead shone with sweat. His smile reached his ears, and them some. William got up instantly to meet him.
"What's going on? Has she started to push?"
Wallace's smile faltered confusedly for half a second before understanding dawned on him.
"No, no." He shook his head, grinning elatedly. "She's been pushing for a while, actually."
It seemed like the world held its breath.
"And?" I prompted through my stretched lips.
"Come see for yourself!"
I'm not ashamed to admit that I squealed. William disappeared with his brother in the next breath, his boisterous laugh fading as the doors swung closed. I turned expectantly to Sophie. She was as white as snow.
"Sophie," I said as gently as I could, "you're crushing my hand."
Her hold loosened instantly, but her short nails still managed to dig into the back of my hand. I carefully tugged her towards the doors, and she barely stepped along.
"Okay, what's wrong?" I coaxed. She opened her mouth, "And don't you dare lie to me." Her mouth clamped shut.
Her eyes found my feet as she swallowed a few dozen times. Then, quietly, shyly:
"What if he doesn't like me?"
Only years of practice stopped me from snorting with amusement. I don't think I'd ever heard Sophie express the desire to be liked before that moment.
She was so scared.
"Oh, Sophie." I let go of her hand to pull her head forward. I laid my lips on her forehead. "Sweetie, of course he'll like you."
"You don't know that."
"Yeah, I know that." I pulled back slightly to be able to look her in the eye.
"How?" she whispered.
For once I was completely calm. There was no doubt in my mind, no fear thudding against my chest.
"Because everything that's good in me is your fault." I smiled. "I blame you for who I am today. You, your silly protectiveness and your crazy faith that I could do whatever I wanted to if I tried hard enough."
She hesitantly returned my smile. "It's not crazy." She frowned in the next second. "And it's not the same. We've known each other since forever, and you're my best friend."
"So we're kind of perfect for each other." My heart stuttered at how right that sounded. But Sophie was on a roll, and wasn't about to stop to consider her words. She pointed over my shoulder, at the doors. "That kid... That tiny baby... I don't know how..."
"Sophie, listen to me." I was using the same tone of voice I used to talk to my kindergartens, and had she been in the right state of mind, the feisty brunette who have clobbered me for it. "It doesn't matter."
That shut her up.
"It doesn't matter," I continued, "because you'll love him no matter what, right?"
"I love him already." Her eyes were confident. "So much."
"And that's all that matters." I reclaimed her hand and circled my thumb over the rough skin. "When you love someone like that, it won't matter how many times you screw up. It won't matter because everything that you'll do for him is going to be done out of love. And maybe, sometimes, he won't understand why you do the things you do and he'll get angry. It won't matter. Because eventually, he's going to understand, and then he's only going to be able to love you back. There's no other way." I trailed off, wondering for a second if I was still talking bout baby Robert. I saw a glimmer of tears in her eyes – real tears from Sophie MacNeil – and shrugged. "Love's contagious," I concluded, "he won't have a choice."
She sniffled and used her free hand to aggressively wipe at her eyes. A watery laugh seeped through her lips. "Damn it, Kate."
Before I could squeak, she yanked me into a brutal hug. My ribs groaned in protest at the pressure her arms subjected them to. I mentally told them to shut up and enjoy the feeling while it lasted. Which wasn't very long. Sophie released me but maintained her grip on my hand.
"Yeah, I'm good." Her eyes were dry again. "Let's go?"
We walked through the swinging doors and down the hall, listening for the tell-tale voice of the MacNeil brothers. A passing nurse took pity of us and directed us to the new baby's room. Sophie took a deep breath before rapping against the door. I twisted the handle and let us in.
"About time you joined us," Marilyne teased, her hair sweatily sticking to her face. She looked exhausted, but happy was too small a word to describe the curve of her grin. Wallace, sitting next to her and proudly holding her hand, kissed her cheek.
Sophie didn't respond, far too taken with the bundle in William's arms. Wordlessly, she let go of my hand to extend her arms. Her brother slowly brought the baby to his lips. Then he carefully transferred him to his godmother.
"Sophie, meet Robbie."
As soon as he settled into his aunt's hold, the previously silent baby started to cry. I swear, I literally saw Sophie fall in love at that second. She chuckled, not at all put off by the cries, and brought Robbie closer to her chest.
"Hey, Robbie," she cooed and he seemed to calm somewhat. "I'm your godmother." He let out a short wail. With utmost care, she brought a finger and stroked his cheek. "I'm glad you already have so much to tell me." Robbie hiccoughed in response. "You know, I danced with your mommy while she was pregnant. Because your mommy loves to dance, but your daddy's too maladroit to learn."
"Obviously, you'd remember that word," I laughed.
Her eyes flicked to me for a quarter of a second before returning her full attention to the bundle of blankets and adorable baby. Ever so slowly, Sophie swayed from side to side. She made calming shushing noises while her finger continued to caress Robbie's tiny face.
"Oh boy," Wallace murmured to his girlfriend. "Looks like we have a hogger."
"Shut up," William responded in Marilyne's place, "I think it's the first time I've seen her act like a girl in years."
Normally, a jab like that would have incited hell's fury and more from Sophie. At the very least, she would have flipped him the bird. But Robbie chose that moment to finally open his eyes.
"Wallace," she gasped, "he has your eyes."
He barked a chuckle at the lovestruck catch in her voice. "He has all our eyes, moron. MacNeil eyes." Her breathing shallowed and he cocked his head. "You okay, Soph?"
Her gaze rose to meet my own and I took my cue to move forward. My hand found her shoulder. She was shaking, tremors rocking her back muscles. Her arms were steady, though, unmovable as they held her godson. I let my other hand join hers to support the baby. We swayed together.
"He's perfect," I breathed.
Red, round cheeks. A miniature nose. A smattering of light hair. Clear blue eyes. Perfect.
"You're right," Sophie said. "And you were right, back then. I love him. You hear that, Robbie? I'm gonna love you so goddamn much."
"Language around the baby," Marilyne chided without much force. We ignored her.
Sophie giggled and tucked her head against my cheek. "I was freaking out for nothing, wasn't I?"
I scrunched my nose. "Yeah. And not for the last time, I'm sure."
"And...and when I act like a complete nutcase, will you...can you... I mean..."
"I think," Wallace interrupted, "that Sophie is using a very roundabout way to ask if you'll be part of Robbie's life."
I didn't have to think twice as warmth spread from my heart to my fingertips. "Of course. We're family."
Covertly, Sophie sniffled. Despite her wet eyes – eyes that had never been so humid in their entire lifetime – her teeth flashed mischievously. "Auntie Katie. I like it," she said.
I felt so warm, so loved. Distantly, I heard my heart thunder at the situation, at the feel of a baby in both our hands. As William and Wallace talked lowly to each other, catching up on each other's lives, and Marilyne sleepily closed her eyes, I was at peace. Absentmindedly, I rubbed Sophie's shoulder while the thumb on my other hand ran over her knuckles.
So, so at peace. I would have done anything to hold onto it.
Risked anything to get a slice of that peace every day for the rest of my life.
"Hey, Sophie?" I whispered into her hair.
One deep breath.
"I love you."
She hummed contentedly. "Love you too."
My stomach dropped. She hadn't understood. As though he sensed my disappointment, Robbie opened his small mouth to release a powerful wail. Sophie barked a laugh before returning to delicate hushing. She brought her godson higher to her chest and tucked his head over her heart. He blubbered a few seconds more as she tickled his chin.
Perfect. They were perfect.
She cocked her head to the side and I ducked my own to be able to meet her eyes head on. She chuckled at my scrutiny and nudged her nose against my cheek.
"What?" she breathed.
My first fist-bump. My first dance partner. My first 'date'. My first love...
Actually, that wasn't accurate. True, yes, but not entirely. Sophie was so much more than firsts. She was the only one.
The only one I bumped fists with. The only one I trusted enough to really dance with. The only one I ever wanted to date. Really, the only one I'd ever loved.
I didn't breath. I didn't need to: the words were weightless as they floated off my tongue.
"I love you."
Her eyes spoke for her. A shimmer of laughter. A glaze of confusion. Frustration. Concern.
"I love you."
Hesitantly, she quirked the corner of her lips. I took a breath then, and was dazzled by how deeply I could draw oxygen. I was free. Completely. I grinned right back at her. She searched my eyes a few seconds more before her whole body relaxed.
"I love you."
And, finally, she understood.
Word from Fido: Well, all done. I'm not quite satisfied with how I wrapped this up, but I'm at a loss as to what to do. I'll come back to it in a few months to make it just right. I hope. Who knows, really? What I do know is that Kate and Sophie are two amazing characters that I will definitely visit again. I'm about to start working on a story set in Annabelle's point of view, in high school, so prepare to read loads about those two. I hope you guys enjoyed these little scenes, snapshots between two good friends. Most of all, I hope you guys understood what I was trying to write.
Avec tout mon amour,