Consciousness comes and goes like the beat of a heart. I know there are people around me, I can hear their panicked voices, but they sound far away, like I’m hearing them from underwater. I try to cling to the sound, searching specifically for Christian’s voice, but it’s so far away. I’m slipping and I’m afraid that I’ve gone too far until someone moves my body and my resulting scream of pain brings me back from the edge.
“Stay with me, Ana,” Grace says. I open my eyes and find that I’m lying on the living room floor. Grace opens my legs and then reaches under my dress to remove my panties, discarding the blood sodden fabric next to her, as she examines me.
“Here, Mom,” Mia says, flying down the stairs with Grace’s medical bag in hand. Grace nods to her and removes a pair of gloves. She reaches between my legs, making me whimper with pain again, but she only just touches me before she withdraws her hand and shakes her head.
“It’s got to be a placental abruption, a bad one. This baby needs to be delivered right now, and we need to get Ana into surgery or we’re going to lose them both.”
“L-lose?” Christian repeats, sounding dazed, but Grace ignores him.
“Elliot where are we on that ambulance?”
“They said they’ll be here in five minutes.”
She shakes her head again. “Not good enough, she’s losing too much blood… she needs blood.”
“Here,” Christian thrusts his arms towards her. “Take it. Take all of it.”
“What’s her blood type?” Grace asks, looking to my mother, but she just looks down at me, pale and shocked.
“B negative,” my dad says, stepping forward. “Same as me.”
“Congratulations, then. You just bought yourself a ticket on the ambulance ride. Pull your sleeves up.”
Christian shuffles to the side while my dad kneels down in the blood soaked carpet next to me and allows Grace to begin prepping his arm for a blood transfusion line. My whole body begins to shake as a wave of cold washes over me, and while my teeth start to chatter, Christian takes my hand.
“Hold on, baby,” he says, his voice shaking. “We’re going to get you to the hospital. You’re going to be okay.”
“Don’t leave me.”
“I won’t, I’m not going anywhere. I’m right here. Stay with me, baby.”
I shiver again as I feel the needle Grace is holding pierce my skin, and then shake off the impending darkness that’s trying to take me once more.
“C-C-Christian…” I stutter, knowing I don’t have long before I lose the battle and slip under again. “S-ave Callio-pe. I chose Calliope.”
“Don’t talk like that. You’re going to be fine, Ana. You’re both going to be fine. Just stay with me… we’re going to have a baby today.”
“Stop it. You are going to be fine, Anastasia.”
But I don’t know if that’s true or not, because as I lie there watching his eyes well with tears, the blackness overcomes my eyes and I’m lost again.
There’s no sense of time passing in the lack of consciousness. Sometimes I can see what I think is light, but I can’t hear anything and I can’t feel anything. There’s nothing and it’s terrifying. My baby is being taken from my body but I can’t feel her, so I don’t know when or if it’s happened. Grace said I was supposed to go to surgery, but I don’t feel any pain or movement. The black is all there is and all I can do is wait, helpless, with no idea when or if it will ever end. For awhile, I’m convinced it won’t, so I almost give up fighting it. But then I remember Calliope, and I think I can almost hear Christian, so I begin to push against the heavy abyss threatening to pull me down once again.
Fighting is exhausting. Again and again, my strength seems to fail and the darkness gets deeper, but then sometimes I feel like the dim light I’ve tried to hold onto is growing stronger, like I’ve almost reached the surface, but I can’t ever be sure. For a brief period, I almost think I feel something touch me, though I can’t decipher who it is or what part of my body is being touched. Then taste comes back, but it’s bitter and it stings the way alcohol does. Finally, after what feels like an eternity, I start to hear voices again, muted at first, but growing more concrete the more I concentrate on them until I can not only decipher the words, but also who’s speaking them.
“But what if she doesn’t, Elliot?” Kate sobs. “What if she never wakes up? What if she’s already gone?”
“She’s not. Okay, you listen to me, she’s going to be just fine. She’s too damn stubborn to go like this and Christian wouldn’t let her if she tried.”
“But the doctors said…”
“The doctors are idiots. Kate, Ana is going to wake up and she is going to be fine. Look at me… she’s going to be okay.”
Slowly, I start to feel my body again. Not in the true sense of the word, but at least that it’s there. Everything feels numb, but I have legs again, and hands. I feel as though I’m being pulled back to earth and while I listen to Kate sobbing somewhere in the darkness next to me, I will myself to speak, but I can’t.
I try again, but nothing. Something is choking me. I try to take a breath but it’s cut off, like there’s something lodged in my throat. Panic begins to set in and, finally, my eyes spring open, bringing white, blinding light back into my world. I glance down and see that there’s something plastic covering my mouth, keeping me from breathing, and instinctively, I reach up to bat it out of the way. I’m weak, extremely weak, so my hand only just barely brushes against the thing obstructing my breathing, but the sound is enough to catch Elliot’s attention.
“K-Kate…” He says uncertainly.
“Oh my god!” I hear the scrape of her chair over the linoleum as she rushes to my side and begins fumbling with the plastic box in the bed next to me. “Ana? Ana, can you hear me?”
I reach for the thing that’s choking off my air and find that it’s connected to a tube. My fingers wrap limply around it and I try to pull, but the movement is so anemic it hardly moves.
“No, no, no!” a woman in light blue scrubs cries as she rushes into the room. “Leave it, dear.”
Leave it? I can’t breathe!
I try and take another breath, but end up coughing. Thankfully, the nurse or doctor or whoever she is begins to deconstruct the tubing in my mouth.
“Elliot, Christian is with Calliope,” Kate says quickly. “Go get him right now.”
“Christian, right…” Elliot says, almost distracted. “What about Carla?”
Kate glares at him. “No, fuck Carla. When Ana finds out what she… We’ll call Ray once we know, but right now, go get Christian.” He nods and darts from the room just as several more medical staff come through the door.
“Anastasia, my name is Dr. Lapp,” the woman in light blue scrubs tells me. “The blockage you feel in your throat right now is intubation. I will remove it, but I need you to relax, okay? Can you do that for me?”
I close my eyes and will my body to stop fighting, but it’s difficult because it feels as though she is yanking my throat out of my body as she removes the tube. I cough and take deep gasping breaths, but each one of them burns. As air floods into my lungs, it actually makes me feel lightheaded, not stronger, and for a moment, I fear the blackness is going to return, but I refuse to let it. Now that I’m back in the light, I can’t allow myself to go under again. I need to know what happened. I need to know where my daughter is and that she’s okay. I brace myself while the doctors surround my bed and as I try to gain control over my breathing, Christian bursts into the room.
I glance over at him and am shocked. He looks haggard. Worse than I’ve ever seen him. His hair is in disarray, there’s inexplicably several days worth of facial hair on his chin, and his eyes are marred by deep black circles. As he walks towards me, peeling away the light pink medical gown from his body, I see that he’s wearing the same clothes he was on graduation day. His shirt is still spotted with my blood. Still, as he glances over me, his face morphs into a melting pot of emotion so intense, I wonder for a moment if he’s about to have a breakdown. “Oh, thank god.” he breathes. “You’re awake. Thank god, thank god, thank god…”
I try to speak again when his hand clasps mine, but I can’t. My throat is too raw. All I can do is let out a hoarse, painful breath that means nothing. He looks up at the doctor with wide, panicked eyes.
Dr. Lapp shakes her head. “We’re not sure yet, Mr. Grey. We’ve only just taken out her intubation. She hasn’t spoken yet.” She turns to me. “Anastasia, do you know who this is?”
I look between the doctor and Christian, confused by the question. Why wouldn’t I know who Christian was? I try again to speak, but am only able to make the same, incomprehensible wheezing sound, so I settle for nodding my head, and Christian’s entire body sags with relief.
“What about her?” She points to Kate and I nod again, so she moves onto Elliot. “Him?” Another nod. “Good, Ana. That’s very good. Do you know where you are?”
I take a breath again, forcing my voice this time, but the words comes out so hoarse it sounds like the strangled death cry of a zombie from some horror movie. “Calliope?”
“What was that, Anastasia?” Dr. Lapp asks.
“Calliope.” I try again, and this time, my voice is a little stronger, clearer, but the doctor still doesn’t seem to understand me.
“She’s asking about our daughter” Christian explains, but I’m confused by the inflection in his voice. It’s like he’s overjoyed and in incredible pain all at once. Oh no… where is my baby?
“Oh, I don’t have…” Dr Lapp begins, but Christian cuts her off again, kneeling down by my bedside as he speaks.
“She’s here,” he reassures me. “She was born on May 7th at 4:53 in the afternoon. She’s 17 ½ inches long and weighs 4 lbs, 7 ounces, no… 9 ounces now. You made a perfect baby, Ana. She looks just like you and she’s absolutely wonderful.”
Relief washes over me.
“I-I want her,” I croak. “Bring her to me.”
He frowns, but Dr. Lapp intercedes before he can answer me.
“Ana, your surgery was successful, but not without complications. The blood loss you experienced before and after surgery was significant. We need to run some tests to check your organs and your neurological function…”
“I want my baby,” I say, trying to be firm even though my voice comes out in only a very painful whisper. “I want to see my daughter.”
“I can’t bring her to you, Ana,” Christian says. “She’s in an incubator. She’s okay, but she’s premature and she had a traumatic delivery. She can’t breathe on her own yet and she can’t eat on her own… she can’t leave the NICU.”
“Don’t worry, baby. She’s doing well,” he adds quickly. “She’s getting bigger and stronger everyday.”
“Everyday? Wait… how long was I out? What day is it?”
“It’s Tuesday, the 10th.”
“The 10th?” My eyes begin darting back and forth as I count the days between today and Saturday. “Three days? My daughter has been born for three days and I haven’t… I haven’t…” My breathing sharpens as I feel the threat of impending tears and it aggravates the pain in my throat again. Calliope is somewhere in this hospital fighting for her life without my help, my love, my support… and she has been for days. She needs me.
Though I still feel incredibly weak, I reach down for the tubes connected to the inside of my elbow and begin scraping at the tape holding them in, trying to yank them out of my arm.
“Ana, stop,” Christian says, but I ignore him.
“I’m going to her. You’re going to take me to her right now.” My head starts to swim and my vision grows dimmer, but I’m determined. I’m going to go to my daughter’s bedside.
“Anastasia…” Dr. Lapp says. “You’ve had major surgery, you’ve only just regained consciousness. You still have a catheter in… I can’t let you get out of this bed.”
“Then you’re going to have to sedate me.” I wince with pain as I try and sit up and realize that it’s not just my throat, my entire body aches. It doesn’t stop me though, I won’t let anything stop me, but before I can even pull the thin hospital blanket from my lap, there are three different sets of hands on me, holding me down, and I’m not strong enough to fight them off.
“Miss Steele, you need to sit back.”
“No! No, I have to see her.”
“You will, as soon as we…”
“No, let me go. Please!” I struggle to pull my arm out of an orderly’s hands and my breath hisses between my teeth as the IV rips out of my skin. Dr. Lapp says something to the nurse next to her about bringing her arm restraints, so Christian takes my hand from the orderly on my right and forces me to look at him.
“Ana, Calliope is getting the best care that she can get right now. She is in good hands and she’s doing better every single day. Every hour. Soon, she’s going to be strong enough to go home and when she is, she’s going to need her mother. You can’t fix her right now. The best thing you can do for Calliope is to take care of yourself, do what the doctors tell you, and get better. Please, baby. Lay still.”
I stare into his pleading eyes and then break down into tears. “Christian, she’s been in this world for three days and I’ve never seen her. I have to see her.”
“I have pictures,” he says, reaching for his phone.
“Me too,” Kate interjects behind him, and both she and Elliot step forward with their phones out.
“This is going to have to wait,” Dr. Lapp argues. “It’s imperative that we begin tests to evaluate her condition as soon as…”
“Please,” Christian says. “One minute. Just let her see that her child is safe and alive and then you can run all the tests you need.”
Dr. Lapp hesitates, but nods and waves toward the door for the staff around me to leave the room. She quickly re-inserts my IV before she follows the others out, and once she gone I hastily pull Christian’s phone from his hands.
There aren’t the hundreds of pictures here that I want, in fact there aren’t even ten, but as I pull up the first one, I immediately start crying again.
“She’s so beautiful,” Christian says, settling down on the bed next to me. “My mother thinks she has my eyes because they’re gray now, but I’m hoping they’ll turn blue like yours. She does have your mouth though, and your dark hair. She’s perfect.”
“She’s so tiny,” I say through my tears as I flip through the photos. Her color is wrong. There’s too much purple in her pigment. She has tubes and wires covering her, coming out of her, and just the sight of them makes my heart physically ache. She looks so fragile and every instinct in my body is telling me to go to her, to protect her, to make her better… Seeing her that way, knowing I can’t go to her, that Christian will stop me if I try, is unbearable. I have to give his phone back to him. Looking at her on the screen of a phone is just torture right now.
“How long until I can see her?” I ask. “An hour? Two? When?”
“I don’t know, baby. I don’t know…”
“Well then get the doctor back in here. The sooner I do their stupid tests, the sooner I can get to Calliope.”
He nods and gets off the bed, pushing past Kate, Elliot, and Luke, who I hadn’t noticed standing in the corner before, to bring Dr. Lapp back into the room. As she returns with her staff and a whole new slew of medical equipment, I have to say goodbye to my family. Kate leans over and hugs me so gingerly, it’s like she’s afraid I might break. Elliot doesn’t even try, instead he leans over to kiss me on the top of my hair and tells me never to scare them like that again. I give him a weak smile and then reach out for Christian.
“Mr. Grey,” Dr. Lapp pushes him, glancing towards the door, and he nods.
“I’m going to be close. I’ll be back the second they let me, I promise.”
“Stay with Calliope,” I tell him. “Don’t ever leave her alone.”
“Never,” he agrees. “My parents have been with her ever since they were let back into the NICU and I’ve only left her when I’ve been with you. We’re taking care of her, I promise. Just get better, okay. She’s ready to meet you.” Tears prick my eyes again and Dr. Lapp lets out an irritated sigh.
“I’m going,” he says, standing from my bedside, but not releasing my hand. “I love you, Anastasia. So very much.”
“I love you too,” I reply. “Go be with our daughter.” He nods and slowly exits the room, Luke hovering close behind him, and the moment the door closes I break down. Tears flow freely down my cheeks as the doctors begin prodding me, hooking me up to different machines, and piercing my skin for blood samples. They wheel my entire bed into a different room to give me an MRI, and when they truly move me for the first time, I feel the residual pain from my surgery like fire inside of my body. Once I’m in the claustrophobic tube I lie there, completely impotent, my body battered and riddled with pain, thinking only of making it through this torture so that I can get where I’m truly needed.
Calliope. At the end of this, they’ll take me to Calliope.
Unfortunately, the test results take hours to come back, and when they do, they’re not good. Dr. Baker is back on shift, so she comes to give me the devastating news about my weak heart and low blood cell count that means my blood isn’t clotting well. I’m at high risk for sudden cardiac arrest, sepsis, and even just bleeding out, and until they have my blood condition under control, I can’t leave this room. Dr. Baker tries to reassure me by telling me what a miracle it is that my neurological function and memories seem to be fully intact, but it’s difficult to find solace in simply maintaining something I didn’t realize I was in danger of losing when I know my daughter is in critical condition somewhere on one of the many floors of this hospital and I can’t get to her.
“So, where do we go from here?” Christian asks Dr. Baker, gripping tightly to my hand from the chair next to my bed.
“Unfortunately, we’re not exactly sure what is depleting her cell count. This kind of treatment is beyond my scope of knowledge,” Dr. Baker says. “I’ve requested a consult from a hematologist but it’s a very rare specialty and this hospital only has credentials for one doctor, who is currently in upstate New York at a conference. He won’t be here for a few days.”
“A few days?” Christian repeats incredulously, and Dr. Baker nods.
“I’ve sent him all of Ana’s charts so he can review them before he actually sees her but it will take him a few days to get back to Cambridge. In the meantime, we’ll be monitoring Ana’s condition around the clock and giving her the absolute best care possible.”
“But until she sees this specialist, she won’t be able to visit the NICU?”
“That is correct, Mr. Grey.”
My head falls back into my pillows as I fight the torrent of emotion this delay creates within me. The sound of my sobs seems to overpower Christian arguing with Dr. Baker about finding another doctor, about flying one here from anywhere in the US, from Europe if need be, but apparently there are all kinds of administrative roadblocks to prevent that from happening. I’d have to be transported to a new facility and right now, that’s impossible. There’s nothing we can do but wait, and every second that passes feels as though it’s going to kill me. Christian’s face is marred with agony as he holds me the best he can through the tubes and wires still connected to my arms and fingers while I cry long into the night, until eventually, I cry myself to sleep.
The next morning, I wake up and am surprised to find Christian isn’t at my side. Instead, it’s my father sitting in the chair closest to me and Luke in the chair resting under the window. Their eyes are both locked on the TV over my bed playing a baseball game but my father’s hand is wrapped around mine at my side.
“Dad?” I ask groggily, and he jumps in surprise when he hears my voice.
“Annie? Oh my god, you… you really know who I am?”
“Of course I know who you are. Where’s… where’s Christian?”
“He had to go down to the NICU, so I told him I’d sit with you. They’re taking Callie off the ventilator.”
“What? They are? Does that mean she can come down here?”
“No, not yet. She’s gotta gain a little bit more weight before they take her out of the incubator, and I don’t know if they’re gonna bring a newborn baby into the ICU, sweetie. Especially a preemie.”
“I’ve got to get out of here,” I wail, the desperate tone returning to my voice as I start to cry again. “I need to see my daughter. Please, Daddy, do something. Help me. I’ve missed her whole life so far, I can’t stay here anymore.”
“I know, baby. I know.” His voice begins to break too. “But I promise you, she’s doing just fine. The doctors are all very impressed by her and that man of yours is doing everything he can to get you to that baby as soon as humanly possible.” He pauses. “He… he really loves you.”
“I know,” I reply, but he shakes his head.
“I didn’t. I mean, I knew you said it, and it’s not that I didn’t believe you, it’s that… I didn’t see the way he loves you.” His expression shifts into something much more painful, so I squeeze his hand to get him to look at me again.
“What’s wrong, Daddy?” He looks up and there are real tears in his eyes now.
“I’m so sorry, Ana.”
“I was with you the whole time,” he begins. “I was giving you blood so I rode here in the ambulance and went directly into the OR with you. There was so much blood, and I’ve seen blood, believe me, but this… I didn’t know how you were going to make it through this. When they got you onto the surgery table, the doctors pushed me out of the way and told me I’d have to go to the waiting room with the rest of the family, but everyone was so distracted trying to save you, that I was able to sit right outside the operating room and no one even noticed.”
“I kept waiting for the sound of the baby crying. It felt like it was taking forever and I thought, ‘how long could it possibly take to open you up and deliver the baby?’. But I never heard her. Someone came through the doors not long after I’d left you, pushing a plastic bin filled with blankets as quickly away from the OR as they could, but they didn’t look at me. They didn’t say anything, so I waited. For a very long time.”
“Finally, someone came out and saw me sitting there. He was covered in blood, in your blood, and he looked like he’d just seen death. I swear my heart stopped. I was sitting there, preparing myself to hear that you’d died on the table, but that’s not what he told me. He said that you’d experienced very serious complications during surgery and that he’d like to speak to your mother and I about the repercussions of those complications. I went straight to the room they were going to put you up in to wait and a few minutes later they brought in Carla. When the doctor finally came in, he told us that the amount of blood from your abruption meant that it took them too long to find the tear inside of you to repair, and when they did, and they started to sew you up, your heart stopped. Again and again. Between reviving you and making the repair, you’d lost too much blood. Your heart was weak, your blood pressure was incredibly low, and with the amount of blood loss you’d experienced… the damage was already too great. He didn’t think you were going to be able to wake up, and if you did, there was a great possibility, almost certainty, that you’d suffer from severe brain deficiencies. You’d lose your memories, your motor function, everything that made you, you.”
“I realized then that that’s why they were letting us wait in your recovery room. They were gifting us time because they were certain we were going to lose you. I asked about Callie, your mother had already gotten an update on her when she was in the waiting room, so the doctor really just talked to me. He told me that she was placed into an incubator, put on a vent, and would be under intensive observation for the next 72 hours. If she made it through the first three days, they believed that her chances were good, but those first 72 hours were critical.”
“I was still reeling from the news about Calliope when they finally brought you in, and when I looked at you, I was shocked. You were so pale, you looked like a ghost. There was tube in your mouth and all kinds of tubes coming out of your arms. I thought, there’s no way she’ll make it out of this, she won’t make it through the night, and while you’re mother and I sat there, holding your hands, I actually thought to myself, where was Christian? Why were you slipping away from this world while the man who told me, to my face, that he loved you was nowhere to be seen? I’d heard him promise you as you bled in his arms that he wouldn’t leave you, but he did. He wasn’t there, and it made me angry. I told Carla she may have been right about him, that there was no way he wouldn’t be here if he loved you the way he said he did, and while she agreed with me, the doctor who was examining you, uh…. Doctor Baker, I think her name was, she told me that he was in the waiting room. She said your mother had asked the staff not to let anyone who wasn’t immediate family receive any kind of information about your condition or the baby’s. She said he’d been asking to see you every chance he got, but they had to turn him away, they couldn’t tell him anything. She said if we’d let her, she’d love to bring him back right then.”
“He didn’t know. He had no idea how your surgery went, how your recovery was going, where his baby was… and it had been almost a full day. I didn’t think that was fair. So, I got up and I went out into the waiting room to talk to him. But when I came through those double doors and saw him, he looked up at me and the look on his face… It was like I was watching a man burning alive. He was in so much pain, I could see it.”
He has to stop to collect himself, but I don’t say anything. I just stare at him with wide, pain filled eyes until he speaks again.
“I told him that you were alive and in recovery, but that it didn’t look good. I told him that you’d lost too much blood and the doctors thought you were already gone, that it was the machines keeping you alive now. You would have thought I shot him if you saw the look on his face, the pain, the helplessness… He looked up at me and begged, actually begged me to see you, so I brought him to your room. Your mother was furious when she saw him, but he didn’t look at her. He didn’t speak to her. He pretended like she wasn’t there. He sat in my seat next to your bed, took you hand, and started talking to you. I almost thought he’d gone crazy because he kept pleading with you not to follow Calliope, that he knew you’d want to, but he couldn’t live without you.”
“It didn’t make any sense. Callie was in bad shape too, but she was alive. She was in the NICU and the doctors hadn’t given us the grim prognosis for her that they’d given us for you. So, I told him, ‘Christian, Callie’s fine. She’s being taken care of right now,’ and he first looked at me like he didn’t understand what I said, and then at your mother. The pain on his face was gone instantly and replaced by fury, and as I listened to what he was screaming at her, I understood why. Your mother had stopped the hospital staff from giving him or his family any updates on the baby, and so after they’d told her about Callie’s condition, she’d told him that Callie was stillborn. That she’d never lived. She lied, and as I looked at your mother, the woman I’d been married to for sixteen years, it was like I suddenly didn’t recognize her. I didn’t understand how someone could be so cruel, and while the doctors rushed in to restrain Christian to try and keep him from attacking your mother, I grabbed her by the arm, dragged her out to the waiting room, and told her not to move again.”
“The rest of his family was still there, Grace, Carrick, Elliot, Mia, and Kate… Luke and Taylor too. They didn’t know what was going on, they still thought you’d lost Callie. Grace looked absolutely devastated, Kate was shaking… so I let them know what was happening. I think Carrick threatened legal action against Carla for lying to Christian about Calliope. I don’t what’s going to happen between her and the Greys, I don’t know if this is forgivable, and I didn’t know if I should say something at the time… I was going to, but then Christian was brought back out to the waiting room by two security guards. You’d coded again, and he was refusing to leave you, so they had to physically remove him. I thought he might try to chase them back into the ICU, but he didn’t. He just slumped into a chair, burning again, and I did the only thing I knew to help him. I took him to the NICU, and I introduced him to his daughter.”
“That helped, for a while. It probably would have done more if her color had been better, but he stared at her for a long time, throughout the entire night and most of the next day. He sat there, holding her hand through the side of the incubator and told her all about you, about the life he wanted for her. We all came to check on him over and over again, but he wouldn’t leave. He’d ask us about you and when we didn’t have anything to tell him, he’d ask us to go. Elliot finally got him out of there by convincing him that he at least needed to try and eat, but they came back just as the doctors came to talk to your mother and I. They were telling us that your heart couldn’t keep up anymore, that you had coded three times through the night and your blood count was in freefall… They reminded us of the improbability of you ever waking up, of you being in a practically vegetative state if you did, and then asked if we wanted to discuss withdrawal of care.”
“That’s why I’m sorry, because it was something I was ready to consider. I’d seen you and how frail you looked. I thought you were trying to go and I didn’t think you’d want the kind of life the doctors were talking about, but Christian… he flew off the handle. He wouldn’t hear it and when they let us back to say our good-byes, he refused to leave your side and refused to let anyone touch you. He was threatening everyone, I was pretty sure he was ready to fight anyone who came to take him away… Elliot tried to calm him down, make him see reason, but he said you always did things in your own time. He said that you just weren’t ready to wake up yet, but that you would and you would be fine. He wasn’t ready, and I couldn’t do it with him like that. I wanted to give him the time to accept what I thought was inevitable, so I told the doctors we were going to give you some more time. They continued your treatments, monitored your heart and your organs throughout the night, and somehow, miraculously, you improved. Your heart had been in A Fib, but it just… normalized. Your vitals grew stronger, your color started to come back… We waited another full day and then, you woke up. Like nothing had happened at all. I’ve never felt worse than I did when Kate came and told me that you were awake, because I was ready to give up on you, every one was, but not him. He fought for you, Anastasia. He refused to give up on you. He protected you. And now I know. Now I see the way he loves you. Whatever else is in his past, we can work through it, I’ll find away to work through it, but I trust your judgement now, Annie. If he’s what you want, I finally believe that he deserves you.”
I wipe away the tears flowing freely down my cheeks, and nod. My dad gets out of his chair and pulls me, gently, into a hug.
“But I don’t understand…” I say while his arms are still around me. “Why didn’t the doctors tell Mom instead of Christian about Calliope? Why would they let him think she was gone? Why didn’t they take him back to her the moment she was stabilized in the NICU?”
“Because I’m not her father,” Christian’s voice says from the doorway, and both my father and I start as we turn to look at him.
“What? Of course you…”
“Not legally,” he cuts me off. “We’re not married, Ana, and the State of Massachusetts doesn’t assume paternity for unwed couples until the mother signs the birth certificate and names the father. You were unable to do that so guardianship and the ability to make medical decisions fell to Carla because she’s your next of kin. My father knew the law, it’s the same in Washington, so he’d already warned me that I was going to have to prove I was Calliope’s father. I was having my cheeks swabbed for a paternity test when your mother got the news about our daughter. She told me Calliope was… that she…” he shakes his head, unable to say the words. “She knew that if you… died, that I would fight to take Calliope from her and she wanted to avoid a custody battle. I think she thought this would be easier.”
“I would never have let that happen,” my dad interjects. “Carla has never been able to see or to admit to herself that a girl needs her dad. She tried to take Ana from me when she ran off with that son of a…” He stops, swallows, and then continues. “I wouldn’t have let your daughter grow up without knowing you, Christian.”
“Thank you, Ray.”
I stare at Christian for a moment in utter disbelief until the shock wears off and I’m left with nothing but anger. No, not anger… rage. Blinding, consuming rage that let’s me forget about the horrible pain and instead has my entire body shaking.
“Where is she now?” I ask through clenched teeth.
“In the waiting room,” my father answers. “Now that you’re awake… I think she’s afraid to come see you. I think she’s ashamed, which is impressive for Carla…”
“Bring her to me,” I tell him.
“Bring her to me, right now!” Christian and my dad both fall silent as the forceful timber of my exclamation echos through the room. They both hesitate for a moment, looking as though they’re not sure whether or not it’s a good idea to do as I’ve asked, but eventually, my father nods, gets out of his seat, and leaves the room.
“I’m sorry, Christian,” I whisper once we’re alone. “I can’t believe she would do that… I can’t believe…”
“Hey.” He moves quickly to occupy the seat my father vacated and takes my hand in his. “You don’t have to apologize for her. If anyone should be apologizing, it’s me…”
“From the moment the paramedics put you in the back of the ambulance, I’ve been going over this and over this in my head, trying to figure out what happened. What we did wrong… We knew you were bleeding, I shouldn’t have just accepted it was something as simple as a scrape. If I’d have taken you to the hospital, they could have delivered Calliope earlier in the afternoon and you both would have been safe. Instead, you almost bled out on the table and Calliope was so oxygen deprived, she was blue when she was born. I almost lost both of you. For awhile, I thought I had.”
“And I shouldn’t have been so rough with you the night before graduation. What if I injured you? What if I’m the reason you…”
“No, stop. This wasn’t your fault, Christian.”
“You can’t know that.”
“Yes, I can. The doctors said I had a placental abruption, right? Well, I’ve known that was a possibility for months, since Dr. Baker first told me I was developing pre-eclampsia. If this is anyone’s fault, it’s mine. I should have taken her warnings more seriously, I should have worked harder to manage my stress better… Besides, I’m the one who didn’t want to go to the hospital, remember? I put graduation ahead of my own baby’s life. What kind of mother does that?” I fall silent for a moment, letting the impact of my own words wash over me, and then break down again. Christian gets out of his chair and sits on the bed next to me, holding me and rocking me back and forth as he tries to soothe me.
“Christian, I have to see her. I can’t look at pictures anymore or videos on your parents’ phones. She’s been inside of me, protected from the world, for seven months and now she’s just gone. It’s like she’s disappeared and if I don’t see her today I’m going to… I-I… I just can’t. I can’t. Please, Christian.”
“I want you to hold her, baby. I want to bring her to you. I’ve spoken with the hematologist Dr. Baker called, offered him double his salary, and he’s getting here as quickly as he possibly…”
We both glance up and see my mother and father in the doorway. She looks at me uneasily, almost as though she’s afraid of me, and honestly, right now, she should be. I’ve never been so angry with anyone in my life, not with Christian when we first broke up, not even with Elena, ever. Even though I didn’t agree with their actions, I could understand them, see the motivation and the reasoning they used to justify what they had done, but this… this was just cruel. If my father wasn’t here, if I hadn’t woken up to fix what she had done, she would have ruined the lives of everyone I loved. That’s something I can’t forgive.
“Sweetheart, I’m so happy that you…” she begins in a breathy kind of voice that’s ladened with impending tears, but I cut her off before she can really start.
“I want you to go back to your hotel, pack your bags, and get on a plane back to Georgia. I have nothing more to say to you except for that I don’t want you around me or my daughter. Don’t call me again, don’t come visit me, don’t send me letters in the mail. We are done.”
She stares at me, dumbfounded, for a moment. Her body seems frozen which means she isn’t leaving, and while she stands there trying desperately to find something to say, I glance over at the corner of the room to where my CPO is seated.
He nods and gets out of his seat to physically remove my mother from my room, and as his hands clasp around her forearms, she seems to overcome her shock and starts pleading for me to listen to her. Luke looks back at me but I shake my head and in the next moment, my mother is gone, leaving us only with the sound of her increasingly frantic cries as she’s pulled down the hall.
“Ana, you don’t have to… I’m not asking you to choose between your mother and I,” Christian begins, but I shake my head again.
“You’re not, she is, and this isn’t the first time she’s asked me to do this. She made me feel like I had to choose her over my dad when she ran away with Stephen. I shouldn’t have chosen her then, even for the few weeks that I did, and I’m not going to do it now.”
“But your parents…”
“I still have the only real parent I’ve ever had. The one who would never betray me the way she did this week, the one whose love is more than just words. Right, Dad?”
Christian lifts my hand to his lips so that he can kiss each one of my fingertips as my father comes to sit on my other side and focuses his attention back on the game still playing on the TV over my bed. The atmosphere in the room changes as we sit there, becomes more relaxed, and while I settle back into my pillows and try not to feel like the worst mother in the world, Christian plays with the engagement ring I was only just able to put back on my finger last night.
“You a baseball fan, Christian?” my dad asks as the innings change.
“Not for the fucking Red Sox,” he replies lightheartedly. “My dad and brother are diehards for the Mariners. In fact, he might have words for me just for allowing this shit to be played in Ana’s room.”
My dad laughs. “Yeah, well I guess that’s what you get this close to Boston. You know, babygirl, if you’d just had your baby the way we’d planned, we could be home right now, watching real baseball.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry I’m inconveniencing your baseball game right now,” I say sarcastically. “How could I be so inconsiderate?”
“I don’t know, it’s not how I raised you,” he says, smiling but not looking away from the game.
I reach out and slap him across the arm, but when he turns to look at me, and probably to make fun of me for how weak that slap actually was, there’s a knock on my door and a new doctor I’ve never seen steps into my room alongside Dr. Baker.
“Miss Steele? I’m Dr. Wong, the hematologist Dr. Baker asked for.”
“Finally,” Christian hisses irritably under his breath, but I pay him no mind as the sudden appearance of the doctor I feel as though I’ve waited years for, the last doctor to stand between me and Calliope, has my full attention.
“Yes, yes…” I stutter. “How is my blood count? Can I see my daughter now?”
“No, and unfortunately the tests you’ve had done are inconclusive as to what your condition really is. I’m not sure what is depleting your cell count but if we don’t get it under control you risk developing permanent anemia or cardiac arrest.”
“So what do we do?” Christian asks, his voice urgent now and his hand gripped tightly around mine.
“We’ll start with an iron transfusion and overnight observation. If her counts aren’t better by tomorrow, we’ll have to consider steroid therapy.”
“Tomorrow?” I squeak. “I can’t wait until tomorrow. I haven’t seen my baby….”
“Anastasia.” Dr. Wong sits on the side of my bed and turns to face me. “Unfortunately, the iron transfusion is your best option right now. If we have to put you on steroid therapy, we’ll also have to give you an immuno suppressant. My understanding of what Dr. Baker has told me about your daughter’s condition is that she was born premature and has her own immune system deficiencies. If you’re placed on an immuno-suppressant, you will be unable to have any kind of contact with her until you’ve completed therapy and your system has stabilized.”
“What?” Panic rises inside of me but Christian squeezes my hand reassuringly as he addresses the doctor.
“What time frame would we be looking at for her to complete that kind of therapy?”
“If the therapy is successful and we’re to ensure all of her symptoms and the related risks have been resolved, a minimum of four weeks.”
My breath catches in my throat, and stays there, choking me. My chest begins to heave as I struggle to take in oxygen and my head starts to feel light. Four weeks? I can’t go four weeks before I see my daughter… I can’t go another day.
“Four weeks is unacceptable. I can’t… Please. I need to see my daughter, now. Please, let me see her…”
Dr. Baker steps closer to the bed. “Ana, I know you need to see her and we’re doing everything we can to get you to Calliope. I promise, we haven’t lost sight of that. But we don’t just want you to see her today, we want you to take her home and have her every day. You’re not out of the woods yet, please let us help you.”
“I know how hard this must be, Anastasia,” Dr. Wong says. “But if the transfusion is successful, which I’m optimistic it will be, you could be able to visit your daughter as early as tomorrow morning. Let’s give this a try and worry about the other possibilities later, okay?”
I frown. I’m not happy with any of the options presented to me but I know that I have no other choice, so I nod. Dr. Wong smiles down at me and leaves the room with Dr. Baker. Twenty minutes later, I have a new IV and I spend the rest of the night counting each drop of the dark liquid from my iron transfusion as they drip with agonizing slowness through the tube and into my arm.
It’s a long night as Dr. Wong wakes me every 2 ½ hours to take my vitals, which means that I’m never really able to get any sleep. By the time morning comes, I’m so tired that I nearly sleep through the blood draw I have to go through so Dr. Wong can reevaluate my blood cell count. When he’s finished he tells me the results will take some time so I’m allowed to get a few more hours sleep, which is probably the only thing that keeps me from going out of my mind. Unfortunately, I’m able to sleep a little too well. The exhaustion seems to weigh so heavily on me while I sleep that when I’m finally being nudged awake, it’s almost difficult to open my eyes.
“Ana. Wake up, baby,” Christian says softly.
“Hmm,” I hum sleepily.
“Come on, wake up.”
I groan as I pry open my eyes and squint up at him through the sunlight pouring through the windows of my room.
“Did the results come back?” I mumble.
“Yeah, they did.”
He pauses, and then smiles. “Let me help you out of bed. I want to take you to meet our daughter.”