A chance collision. A burgeoning romance. A startling twist.
Psychologist Verity Spencer spends her days supporting her clients, so when a surrogate daughter goes into labor, she’s the stand-in mama in the room. On a momentary reprieve, so exhausted she can’t see straight, Verity crashes nose-first into the sternum of hot butch OB/GYN Dr. Raven Lange, on her own second 18-hour shift. Despite their fatigue, sparks fly.
Flowers. A date. A date cancelled. When they finally connect in person, it doesn’t take long for them to fall head over heels—and boots. Their relationship quickly moves in the right direction as Verity meets Raven’s toddler, but their bliss hits a roadblock when a client’s boyfriend does the unthinkable.
Will Raven’s Butch Brigade take matters into their own hands or will Verity be permanently scarred by trauma?
Targeted Age Group:: 18+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
My oldest friend double-dared me to write a lesbian romance novel when I was caught in a terrible funk. I didn't even know there were such things. Had it not been for the magical feedback I received from strangers, I would never have made it a series, but I did, and so it is.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The initial situation: attending the labor of a daughter of my heart was a situation I'd experienced so I started with that. I knew I needed to write a happy femme, since I am a femme, but was not so happy at the time. That, of course, meant she had to meet a hot butch. Voila! Characters.
“C’mon, Rosie. You can do it. Breathe.”
Rosie huffed out clouds of frustration until it passed. I reclaimed my aching, as-good-as- numb hand and reached forward to brush her sweat-soaked chestnut bangs off her forehead. She glanced and sent me a small smile.
Taken by yet another wave, we repeated the drill. We’d been at it for hours.
“Breathe, baby girl. I know you can do this.”
Labor can be an on-again, off-again thing and this little guy was playing molto fast and loose with his arrival time. Sometimes he wanted to be here gangbusters; others, not so much. It was driving his parents round the twist. I, representing mother in the room, was simply required to be present to whatever happened.
Rosie and Jase were lovely people, both yoga teachers in their early thirties, who had been friends for a long time before one day something shifted and they fell truly, madly, deeply and still were. This child of theirs, a boy, was made in pure love, and they wanted him to get here already. Truth be told, so did I.
We were in a birthing room in a wonderful suburban hospital near Boston, and had been for what, at that point, felt like lifetimes. It hadn’t been, but it had been close to two whole days. We’d seen two nursing shifts twice. That seemed like a long time to be in labor.
Panting, she grimaced my way. Rosie had been in active, and inactive, labor for over forty hours—a whole work week, I thought to myself somewhat deliriously.
She relinquished my battered hand, and drew a ragged breath. “I am going to kill him. Kill him dead if he ever, ever suggests having sex again.”
Another contraction forced her exhale. Good thing her husband, Jase, had stepped out for a breather. Although, I’d heard that other about-to-be-new-moms had also made this particular Lysistratan threat.
Ziesl, the nurse in the room, chuckled. “You say that now, Rosie, but wait till you want another one.” She finished recording vitals in her iPad and laughingly sashayed out the door in her Hunny Jar yellow Winnie-the-Pooh scrubs, waving away Rosie’s ever more colorful language.
“Oh, no,” swore Rosie, “he’s on his own if he wants another one.” She sounded like the North Wind as she panted into the excruciating pain. “He can,” whoosh, “bloody well,” whoosh, “do this part,” whoosh, “himself,” whoosh, “next time!”
I kept my silence, knowing full well that Rosie wanted two children, and this was her first. Do the math, precious, I thought.
I said to Rosie, “Baby girl, godmother has to pee.”
“Now?” she said plaintively.
“At least twice every twelve hours,” I said asking permission.
“Go if you must,” she granted regally, smiling in apology for her bad humor. I didn’t blame her.
Washing my hands in the tiny loo attached to Rosie’s room, I prayed that my mangled right hand would hold out until her son was born.
The circles under my eyes drew my attention. Less circles, more like Bloomingdale’s Big Brown Bags. I appeared much the worse for wear, and I wasn’t used to that. I was accustomed to being the prettiest girl in the room—even at my age. Wise, wide-set green eyes stared unblinkingly at me right above those Bags. My lipstick was perfect. How could it not be? It wouldn’t dare. I’m a femme.
Femme lipstick is always perfect unless some Tall, Dark and Handsome butch kisses it off. A wave of longing rippled through my womb.
My ever-reminding conscience weighed in. Verity!
Hmm? I quirked a silent eyebrow.
Now is NOT the time!
“Of course not,” I murmured. It hadn’t been ‘the time’ for eleven years. But when will it be ‘the time?’
Rosie screeched. “Godmother!”
I was back on duty.
After a particularly grueling contraction, Jase mouthed, “Go check in with the doc.”
I slipped out of the room, turned smartly left, and found my nose buried in some teal blue scrubs. They smelled wonderful—cinnamon-y and crisp apple-y. “I’m sorry,” I fluffed.
“No, I’m sorry,” returned a rich female baritone from somewhere above my head.
Flustered, I stepped away, and looked up into warm blue eyes smiling down at me over a dazzling grin.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“Um, yes,” I said, rubbing my nose, “tired. You’re the doc taking care of Rosie, right?”
“Jase sent me to talk to you.”
“And you are …?” she asked.
“I’m the woman whose hand Rosie has been mangling for over forty hours.” I showed her the evidence.
“Oh,” she said. “Indeed.”
Obviously she hadn’t noticed, but I definitely noticed her. Or, rather, my body noticed her. She was a cool, lanky 6’1” easily. Gorgeous. Utterly comfortable with her height—she stood tall.
“And you are?” she repeated.
“Dr. Verity Spencer,” I supplied.
“Dr. Spencer,” she answered automatically, “I’m Dr. Raven Lange.”
We shook hands like we had met at a cocktail party for work except that I winced. Hand-shaking was definitely off the table for the foreseeable future. Regardless of the pain, shaking hands with Dr. Raven Lange was familiar and yet unsettling, and at the same time, … intimate. She held on to my hand with both her hands for a little longer than she ought; hers were big and warm and capable.
“Dr. Lange,” I stifled a yawn, “excuse me, it’s been a long haul.”
“I can relate,” she responded. “This is my second eighteen-hour shift.”
I raised my eyebrows at her.
“I started at a deficit, too. Someone I know is teething.”
“Bless your heart,” I said. “I think Jase wants to know—outside of Rosie’s earshot—what you think we ought to do.”
“You’re Rosie’s … mother?” she asked.
It was complicated. I was not technically Rosie’s mother, but I may as well have been. We’d prepared a story for exactly this circumstance.
“No, I’m Rosie’s godmother. Her mother is …,” I paused and contemplated her face again gauging how open to be, then exhaustion commandeered my tongue, “a piece of work. She wasn’t invited to the birth. In fact, she was uninvited.”
“Whoa,” whistled the gorgeous Dr. Lange. My brain definitely clocked her as TDH.
“Yes. There’s more, but another time,” I added. “Is the baby in trouble? Do we need to prepare Rosie for a Caesarian? How much longer could this go on?” I built a head of steam, my worry outpacing my sense.
“Dr. Spencer, hold on a sec.” She spoke with authority. “Have you been with her this entire time?” I nodded. “Do you need some caffeine?”
“Oh, that would be lovely,” I smiled so tired that tears began to sparkle in my eyes.
“Come with me,” she invited, pivoting so we both faced the same direction and placing her warm hand in the small of my back. Then, for an n-sec, I was on a dinner date in a posh restaurant in Cambridge.
No, not a date, dear, said my helpful conscience.
As we passed the central nursing station, she made some sort of signal to Zeisl, then leaned down to speak. “I’m taking you to our secret stash.”
She yanked open yet another heavy door, and as it closed, the hospital sounds went away. I was aware of the scaffolding of the building but someone had taken a small space and put in it the comforts of home. Two recliners, a television with a remote, cable. A table with an electric kettle, some real tea, and a small fridge that, with any luck, held hazelnut cream for the good Earl Grey on the top of the table.
She didn’t even ask. She sat me in one of the teal recliners—teal must be the official color of the OB ward—and busied herself making a huge mug of steaming Earl Grey. Once it sat steeping, she opened the mini-fridge. “You have your choice, doc, half and half or hazelnut cream.”
Her long folded legs squatted in front of the fridge; we were eye level. “Do you have to ask?” I said.
She grinned at me. “No, ma’am,” she said, “I don’t.” I watched her grab the hazelnut without hesitation. She doused the tea liberally, stirred, and handed me the mug with the handle facing left.
I stared blankly at it, and then realized what she’d done. “How did you know, Dr. Lange?”
“You wear a watch on your right wrist.”
“You must have a special lefty in your life,” I said. “Most people would never have clocked such a thing.”
“I did,” she said, answering the implicit question, “once upon a time.”
“No,” she leveled at me, “no more.” I had the feeling I was supposed to glean something from this but was too tired to know what.
I sipped my tea in silence feeling the caffeine brighten my brain. Later, much later, Dr. Lange told me she’d been studying me the whole time. I think she said, “…taking you in.”
“Have you ever had a baby?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said softly. This was fraught territory for me.
“How long was your labor?”
“Eight hours. So classic textbook that the doctor in charge asked me if I was sure I’d never had a baby before. I was in the middle of a contraction when I told him, ‘Not in this lifetime. Now, go away, I’m getting ready to push.’”
Dr. Lange laughed. “Some of them go that way. Some of them go the way Rosie’s labor is going.”
“On-again, off-again?” I asked.
“Well, yeah, but that’s not what I meant. I meant to intone the OB mantra.”
Mantras I knew. “Which is?”
“Babies have their own timing.”
“Oh, that they do,” I concurred. “I’m worried about this guy, but I can’t tell if I’m worried for him, or Rosie’s exhaustion, or Jase’s impatience, or all of the above.”
“All of the above,” she soothed. What a great voice. “Dr. Spencer, we have monitors on Rosie and the baby. Nurses will take her blood pressure every quarter hour to cover the possibility of a dangerous spike. At the first indication of distress for either of them, we’ll do a Caesarian.”
I scrutinized her eyes—you should know, the windows of the soul—to make sure she was being completely forthright. Not a speck of guile in them. And, God, they were gorgeous. Deep Maine lake blue on a summer’s day framed by slight joy lines. Under shapely black eyebrows, and a mop of Black Irish curls which would have spilled over her collar had she been wearing one. Briefly, my left hand twitched to be tangled with her tangles.
Verity! squealed my conscience.
“Dr. Lange, thanks for your candor. How long will you be on today?”
She reached over and touched my forearm, “Until Rosie has her baby boy.”
“No matter how long that takes?”
“No matter how long, I promise.”
I breathed out relief. “Thank you, Dr. L ….”
“Most of the nurses here call me Dr. Raven,” she hinted.
“Thank you, Dr. Raven,” I said sending a poor Xerox of a femme sparkle her way.
“Let me walk you over. Take the mug. I’ll come get it later.”
I rose, somewhat renewed, if for no other reason than that someone had paid attention to me. That warm hand on the small of my back seemed to hold a promise; either that, or I wished it did.
“That was a long pee, godmama,” observed Rosie as Dr. Raven opened the door and we came into the room together.
“I ran into Dr. L … Raven, and she very kindly,” whereupon I curtseyed to her, “made me a cup of Earl Grey tea.” The good doc had a bit of a flush on her face. Truth? Adorable.
Rosie eyed us, saying nothing. She knew my story, and she always urged me to go out, meet someone, live a little.
I babbled on. A brook has nothing on me. “I cornered her and peppered her with questions, Rosie. The doc didn’t stand a chance. I think she made me tea so I’d chill.”
“It’s true, Rosie. I had to defend myself,” protested Dr. Raven. “Just to get her to take a breath.”
Rosie snickered. “Oh yeah, I know her question mode, believe me.” Rosie addressed me, “Did you get your answers, godmama?”
“I did,” I said primly, “and a cup of Earl Grey tea with hazelnut cream to boot!”
Then Rosie sighed. “I think he’s backing off again, doc.”
Dr. Raven went into full-on physician mode, checking Rosie’s dilation, and various monitors. “Your godmother was worried and she wanted some answers. I want to deliver them to you myself rather than make her be the messenger.” She was awash in my palpable gratitude.
She sat on the chair by the side of the bed. “We have monitors on both you and the baby. We’re checking your pressure every quarter hour. The minute either of you shows any distress, we’ll discuss the option of a Caesarian.”
A beat went by wherein we heard only monitors beeping, and then Rosie let out a wail of a “Noooo.”
Dr. Lange didn’t miss a beat. “No? Why?”
“Because … because … because ….”
I filled in the blank, “…that would be failure?”
We let the word hang in the room.
“Well, yeah,” said Rosie, gulping her tears.
Jase, the practical one, asked, “Do we finish with a beautiful baby boy to take home after a Caesarian?”
Dr. Lange replied, “You do.”
“Then how, exactly, is a Caesarian a failure?” asked Jase.
“Because … because … because ….” Rosie ground her gears for some serious tears.
“It isn’t.” Dr. Lange overrode Rosie strongly enough that it stopped her tantrum.
“It isn’t?” asked Rosie.
“No, it isn’t,” she repeated. “The longest labor I ever attended was sixty hours because the mother refused a Caesarian and we almost lost her and her daughter. I won’t let that happen to you or your baby boy, Rosie. If, and I mean if, there’s distress, we’ll talk it through.”
No one could have argued with her. She was definitive, an impeccable authority, and in charge. I breathed again—comforted. Oh, did I need that in my life.
“If you’ll excuse me …,” she rose, “I’ll check on you in a bit.”
I followed her out the door noting her broad shoulders and narrow hips.
“Dr. Raven,” I called, as she began her long-legged stride to the nurses’ station. She about-faced, “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, Dr. Verity,” she saluted me. “I’ll be back, milady.”
That time, I blushed. I am a lady, for real.
I reversed back into the room to Rosie and Jase gazing at me.
“She’s hot,” was Rosie’s opening salvo. Jase grinned in agreement.
“Rosie!” I protested.
“She is,” Rosie insisted. Jase bobbed his head.
“So? Is she a dyke?” asked Jase.
“I don’t know!” I justified. “I’m terrible at that. And, besides, it doesn’t matter anyway if she’s a dyke. I a/ do not go out with dykes, I go out with butches, and b/ am not going out with anyone anytime soon.”
“Oh, bullshit,” said Rosie. “You just need the right butch.”
“Don’t we all, baby girl?” I asked wryly.
Bless Jase’s heart. “That’s me!” he crowed pounding his chest like our simian ancestors, and Rosie melted.
Oh, Blessed Mother, I wanted to melt again sometime. Sometime soon. And that Dr. Raven, if she calls herself a butch, is definitely melting material.
“Ow!” swore Rosie suddenly. “Ow! Ow! Ow! Dammit.” Our eyes were riveted to her. “Shooting pains,” she gasped.
“Go get the doc, Verity!”
I was out the door before he finished my name.
“Where’s Dr. Raven?” I panted at the nurse in the central station.
“Rosie’s having shooting pains.”
“I’ll get her.” She pushed three buttons on her phone console, and Dr. Raven materialized in front of me.
She glimpsed my face and that hand landed on the small of my back again. “Tell me on the way,” she commanded as she steered me toward Rosie’s private birthing room.
By the time we got there, Rosie was in active labor and everything seemed normal again.
The doc had a curious affect on her face.
As she left, I tracked her. “Dr. Raven?”
“What is it?”
She snapped out of it. “What is what?”
“I can tell something occurred to you in Rosie’s room.”
“Yes. A possibility. I won’t say it till I know for sure, and yes, Dr. Verity, we’ll watch her more closely.” She patted my arm, and left tingles in the wake of her touch.
I looked up at her, and we had a moment. Of what wasn’t exactly defined, but definitely a moment, and no question ours.
“Thanks,” I said softly, “again.”
“Of course,” she murmured, running her hands through that lush black hair. Oh what I might do given the opportunity ….
Verity! Stop that!
Why? I asked internally. Why? Rosie’s right, she’s hot.
I picked up my duties as Labor Attendant.
Truthfully, the more I watched Rosie, the more concerned I became. Not because I thought we had a problem but because she was on the verge of complete exhaustion. It’s no mistake that it’s called Labor. It’s a lot of work, and she was close to maxed out. I was doing everything I could to help her and so was Jase, but our combined efforts had flagged at this point as well. We were borderline toast.
Then the baby’s monitor went off. Loud, and fast, and STAT, it said.
Then, bizarrely, everything seemed to slow down. Way down. Way, way down.
Ziesl came into the room.
She stopped the monitor’s shriek.
She read the data from the monitor.
She murmured unintelligibly, if comfortingly, to us.
She excused herself from the room.
Rosie was wide-eyed. Jase was quiet strength. I was present.
Dr. Lange and Ziesl returned to the room unhurriedly.
The good doctor spoke. “Rosie, Jase, Dr. Verity, your baby boy has hit his stress limit and crossed into distress.” Before we erupted into questions, she raised her big hands, “Not bad distress, slight distress, but distress nonetheless. It’s time to talk options.”
The tears started to course silently down Rosie’s cheeks. I reached to hold her. Jase grabbed my swollen right hand, at that point, so painful it had crossed into numb. For numb it hurt one hell of a lot.
Dr. Raven’s eyes sparkled. She lives for this, I thought. Making her handsomer, I thought too.
“Rosie,” she began, “you’re clocking forty-three hours of labor. We will monitor you much more closely, and I strongly suggest you consider a Caesarian.”
Rosie snuffled against my collarbone.
“When do we have to decide, Dr. Raven?” I asked in Rosie’s behalf.
“Before he decides for you.”
“Time estimate?” I pursued her.
“There’s no standard, but likely no more than four hours.”
Forty-seven hours of labor, I thought. Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
I tilted my head and flashed my big green eyes Dr. Raven’s way. “I’ll take care of it,” I mouthed over Rosie’s weeping head.
Dr. Raven bowed slightly at me, and made her exit. I caught a whiff of musky cologne.
“Rosie, baby girl, listen. Let’s talk this through.”
Jase handed her a real handkerchief. She wiped her eyes and blew her nose, then handed it back to him. That’s love. I wanted a butch to hand me her real handkerchief, and then gamely take it back without so much as a blink after I’d used it.
“I think you need to meditate,” I began.
“Good idea,” echoed Jase.
“Meditate?” Rosie gaped at me disbelieving. “What? Between contractions?”
“Yes, and during contractions.”
“You’re better at meditating than I am, godmama.” She shook her head wryly.
“Maybe,” I said. “I’ll meditate with you. I think we have to tune in to this prince of the realm, and see what he says.”
“You’re kidding, right?” said Jase.
“Nope. I’m not,” I assured him. “He’s closer to God than any of us. Your precious little guy’ll tell us what he needs.”
“We’ll meditate—all three of us,” said Jase.
“Cool,” said Rosie. “Go tell Ziesl, Jase, so she doesn’t interrupt.”
Jase, obedient, went to do his lady’s bidding.
“Am I having a Caesarian?”
“I think so, baby girl,” I confessed candidly. “What we need to know is why, and what you need to know—before we do it—is that it’s not a failure.”
“I do,” she agreed.
“Ziesl’s cool,” Jase informed us.
We settled. Rosie in the bed. Jase behind her holding her and supporting her back, and me in the unusually uncomfortable chair at the bedside. We’d been flying—my word for meditating, because that’s what I do when I meditate—for ten minutes or so when Rosie cracked into gales of laughter followed so immediately by Jase that they couldn’t possibly have consulted one another beforehand. I opened my eyes.
“He … he …,” Rosie hiccupped she laughed so hard.
Jase couldn’t speak; he had tears flowing down his handsome face.
“He doesn’t …,” she got one more word out before she dissolved again.
“…want …,” added Jase.
This was worse than Charades.
“He doesn’t want what?” I pushed.
“To have his head smashed,” they gasped out together as they continued to howl.
I wrapped my brain around that, and asked, “It’s a vanity thing?”
“Really?” I said. “Really?”
Two hysterical parents-to-be of one accord.
“Well I’ll be damned,” I beamed at them. “Good for him.”
Ziesl came chugging in with her blood pressure cuff and stethoscope. Rosie and Jase howled through telling her. Guilt had vanished from Rosie’s energy field. She was utterly happy to prevent her first-born son from having his head smashed.
Ziesl checked Rosie’s pressure; it was fine, and she checked the baby’s heart rate which had calmed to normal. “Good thing, too,” she spoke under her breath.
“Why, Ziesl?” I asked.
“Because Dr. Raven was called to do an emergency C-section.”
“Is it okay to wait?” asked Rosie.
“Yes,” said Ziesl. “Get some rest, Rosie. You’re gonna need it.”
Whereupon, having received that perfect pink permission slip, Rosie fell sound asleep.
Jase and I both exhaled. We weren’t the ones in labor, but we were, if you take my meaning.
“Jase, you rest, honey,” I said as I rose from the chair. “You’re gonna need it, too. I’m going for a walk to shake out some of the tension.”
He wrapped his long arms around me and kissed the top of my head. “Thanks, Verity. This would have been impossible without you.”
“Oh, you’d’ve managed,” I said.
“Yeah, but nowhere near as well.”
“You’re welcome, darling,” I smiled tiredly. “My pleasure.”
I walked for an hour, through the crazy maze of neutral halls, to the elevators, and then outside to the very late-night, full September moon on the deserted hospital campus. Things were quiet but not peaceful. We still hadn’t done what we’d come to the hospital to do, and the tension wouldn’t resolve until Rosie had had her baby, and all was well with the world.
I had no idea what time it had gotten to when I slipped onto the OB ward like a sylph. My red curls were wild with the humidity of the night. I reached to pin them into some semblance of order when a deep voice from behind me said, “Don’t. It’s beautiful like that.” I never wear my hair down in public.
I spun around to see a more tired Dr. Raven watching me. “Dr. Verity,” she said evenly.
“Dr. Raven,” I copied her. “You look beat.”
She scrubbed her hands over her face. “I am, but I still remember my name.”
I gave her a quizzical glance.
Dr. Raven laughed. “When I ran into you in the hallway, or rather, when you ran into me,” I blushed, “I had just washed my hands in cold, cold water and wiped my face with a dreadful sandpaper towel in an effort to remain lucid.” She tipped her wrist and checked her watch. “I’m close to the end of my second eighteen-hour shift.”
I threw her a sympathetic glance.
She continued, “There is a story that circulates on every OB ward about an intern doing a standard eighteen-hour rotation. It goes that he walked into a patient’s room one morning at the end of a shift, and introduced himself to a soon-to-be-new-mom, ‘How do you do? I’m Dr. … um….’
“The mother-in-waiting … uh, waited … for the doctor to say his name. When he didn’t, she asked gently, ‘Doc? Honey? How long has it been since you’ve slept?’
“He checked his watch and mentioned some outrageous number of hours. She replied, ‘I don’t, as a rule, let doctors who don’t know their own names examine me. Go get some sleep and come see me later,’ whereupon she cajoled him kindly, but firmly, and bodily, out the door of her room.
“Dr. Aesop’s Moral of the Story, ‘No matter how tired you are, always remember your own name.’”
Dr. Raven and I laughed delightedly together.
She continued, “I’ve got one more baby boy to deliver before I can go home.”
“Yeah?” I said. “Me, too.”
We smiled at each other. I blushed, unexpectedly shy with her. She was gorgeous. And hot.
“Dr. Verity?” she said coming closer, close enough that I had a felt sense of the heat coming off her skin.
“Yes?” I wished to curl into that warmth.
“I’d like to take you out for dinner when we’re not so tired. May I?”
Oooh, a butch with manners. And proper grammar. Be still my heart.
“I think that might be arranged,” I said lightly, “if you were to ask me.”
“Oh,” she twinkled at me, “I’ll ask you.” Her voice deepened, “I promise I’ll ask you.”
I blushed again.
She grabbed my left hand and pulled me along the corridor. Total change of subject. “Let’s go deliver a baby, shall we?” She didn’t wait for an answer.
Rosie had, by then, been in and out of labor for forty-seven hours and both she and her son were done. D-o-n-e. Done. Not to mention her husband and me.
So, for what it’s worth, operating rooms are pretty uh … sterile. I guess they have to be, but sterile kind of rules out any sort of comfort, not to mention charm. In fact, charm not so much. Chrome and stainless décor with a side of latex. Awful.
I suited up in over-sized teal scrubs over my clothes, booties over my shoes, a disposable shower cap-like thing over my rampant hair, (good thing teal was a good color for me), and I would have been wearing latex gloves if I hadn’t drawn the line. I needed to do healing work whilst I sat at Rosie’s head to make the procedure as painless and blood-free as possible.
Rosie wore a dreadful, colorless hospital gown open to the back that covered her breasts but not much else. What is the rule that says hospital gowns need to be ugly? Can someone tell me that please?
A nurse we’d never seen before dumped freezing cold Betadine over Rosie’s belly. She yelped. Dr. Raven walked in as she did it, and spoke sharply to the nurse, “Darlene! You couldn’t have warmed it? C’mon.” She rubbed her warm hands over Rosie’s belly to spread the disinfectant. “This lovely lady’s been in labor for close to two full days.”
“Sorry,” grumbled Darlene. She patently wasn’t.
They’d started intravenous saline as S.O.P., which had already made Rosie chilly. The metal table was no help either. Nor was the clatter of metal instruments on the stainless surgeon’s tray as Darlene prepped the room. Nor were Rosie’s nerves, not to mention Jase’s or mine.
“Can’t Ziesl help?” I asked Dr. Raven sotto voce.
“She’s not an OR nurse,” she whispered under her breath, for my ears only.
“Too bad,” said eagle-ears Rosie.
“Yeah,” agreed Dr. Raven. “Rosie, you ready?” She waited till Rosie yessed her.
“Jase?” He nodded.
“Dr. Verity?” She met my eyes over her mask.
“Yes’m,” I said.
“Baby boy?” she asked. He kicked her. We cackled.
Her gorgeous hands selected a scalpel, and made an incision low on Rosie’s belly. Jase shaded into celadon green. Rosie grabbed his beard and yanked. I sat doing energy healing for Rosie, Jase, and this new life soon to join us in the world.
My hands were raised, palms open, covering the whole field of the table: Rosie, Jase, the baby, the cranky nurse, and Dr. Raven. My right hand was a sea of bruises. Tomorrow, or, actually, it was already tomorrow, it would be entirely aubergine.
Rosie was thankful not to be going into labor anymore. Jase was thankful that the baby was on his way. The OR nurse was at the end of her shift—this was her last delivery of the night. Dr. Raven was completely, unadulteratedly focused on delivering this child. She was exquisite in her concentration.
At one point, as she waited for something from Darlene, my raised hands drew her eye. Her eyes spanned my hands to my face with a quirked eyebrow as if to ask me what I was doing.
“Healing,” I whispered. I saw her hear me, and then we were in Operating Mode. Healing—together.
A Caesarian, without complications, takes very little time. Dr. Raven Lange delivered Rosie (and Jase) of a healthy baby boy at 12:34 AM. He weighed eight pounds, eight ounces, and was seventeen inches long. This child was a Virgo, born to two Aquarian parents. Wow, did they have a lot to teach one another.
Another nurse whisked him away to clear his nasal passages, do an Apgar test, and generally clean him up—birth is a messy business. Dr. Raven stayed the course, and finished the surgery. Rosie was big-eyed as the nurse laid her son gently on her breasts. Jase’s eyes streamed tears. “Welcome, Uriel Nathaniel,” said Rosie, “you’re beautiful.”
Jase echoed his wife’s words, “Rosie, you’re beautiful.”
I don’t know what makes husbands say those sorts of things at moments like these, but something does. Mine at the time did the same, and I was as far from beautiful as I’d ever felt.
“Nate,” said Rosie, tucking his blanket under his chin, “meet your great godmother, Verity.”
“Nate,” I said, “pleased to meet you.”
Rosie added, “And relieved too, I bet.”
“Yes, relieved as well,” I agreed.
Hospital protocol doesn’t leave women in the OR for very long. Someone had come to take Rosie and Nate to her room. Jase walked with them.
“I’ll be along in a minute,” I said.
I checked various doors leading out of the OR until the broad shoulders of a tall, handsome doctor drew my eye through the window in one of them. I pushed through the swinging door.
“Hey,” I said, putting my hand between her shoulder blades.
“Your hand is hot,” she said.
“Yes, usually,” I answered her, “and certainly when I’ve spent two solid days doing healing work off and on.”
“Healing work?” she said, not moving except to press into my hand.
I reached up with both hands to grasp her shoulders and squeezed. Her body begged for relief from her exhaustion and breathed out as I continued to squeeze her shoulders.
“Shake your hands out,” I requested.
“What’ll that do?” she chuckled.
“It’ll release your shoulders.”
“C’mon …,” skepticism laced through her voice.
“Do it for me, doc. Please,” I asked, “pretty femme please.”
She froze and then she did it. “Da-yamn,” she said. “It worked.”
“Of course it did. I’ve been a healer for more than forty years. I ought to know.”
“Wow,” she said, slowly circling. “That was amazing. I feel terrific.”
“Awake enough to drive home?” I asked. She was very close. Definitely inside my personal bubble.
“Sure,” she was cavalier. “You?”
“I hope so,” I yawned, “because that’s where I’m going after I kiss the dynamic trio.”
“How ’bout a kiss for the doctor?” she dared, her eyes sparkled with mischief.
“I don’t kiss doctors who’ve never kissed me,” I defaulted to Femme Rules. Code: Prim.
“Well, I’ll have to remedy that, won’t I?” She leaned down and brushed my lips with hers so gently that if I hadn’t seen her do it, I might have missed it. “Mission accomplished,” she said gently. “Thanks for the healing.”
I hadn’t expected her to kiss me.
It had been a long, long, uh, long time.
Another couple of hours elapsed before I left there since Jase’s parents had arrived, and Rosie’s sister and brother-in-law. A lot of details needed sorting. Jase walked me to the door.
“Did she ask for your number?” he teased.
“No,” I admitted, “but she did ask me if she could take me out for dinner.”
“She did? Cool.” Then he inspected me more closely. “You said yes, right?”
“Yes, it is, and yes, I did,” I agreed. “I guess she’ll figure out how to get my number.”
“She better,” he said.
“Or what?” I giggled.
“Or I’m going to have to stalk her and give it to her!” he threatened.
I left for Somerville after three in the morning, meeting three cars on the way. Then I fell into bed barely making time to walk under the shower and put on a nightgown. Two days of labor is a long time. Even for a Labor Attendant.
My last waking thought was to wonder if she’d call to ask me out to dinner.
My first waking thought was to wonder what the hell that ringing was and would it please stop.
I raced to the squawk box in the front hallway of the condo to buzz in whoever had insisted. When I opened the front door, a huge spray of exotic flowers greeted me over a pair of legs with a distinctly accented, “Flowers, ma’am.”
“I see,” I said. “They’re gorgeous.”
“They are,” the voice agreed, transferring the surprisingly heavy vase. I walked them into the living room, and reappeared at the door to sign his slip.
“Thank you,” I called, as he scampered down the burgundy carpeted stairs.
In the living room, I gazed at the arrangement as I yawned and stretched, noting the time on the cable box. Four o’ the clock, teatime, according to my lights. I sashayed into the kitchen to put the cherry red kettle on and readied my favorite pink tea cup for the Earl of Grey and his special bergamot blend. Taylors of Harrogate are tea makers to The Queen, and my ab fab favorite.
I stared out the windows of the kitchen, which overlooked the sweet porch on the back of the flat. The trees had started to slip toward yellow, and random leaves were beginning to cascade to Earth. Fall is my favorite season. My birthday was a month away. I was a month from forty-nine—in real time.
Once I’d steeped my tea and doctored it with hazelnut cream, I repaired to the living room to investigate the riot of flowers. A card waved gracefully on a pronged skewer.
The florist was from ton-y Newbury Street in downtown Boston, quite well-known. Winston Flowers. I’d heard of them, and I was a native New Yorker not a Bostonian. Just visiting here for a rough ten or so years of a marriage that didn’t work out. And still hurt.
I perched on the pink sofa drinking my tea with the card resting in my lap, staring idly at the windows that faced uphill where I lived in the 1889 gentlemen’s hotel that became condos in the late nineties. That would be nineteen-nineties. I drank my tea, smelling the luscious roses in the arrangement, relatively unconsciously. It had been a long, long time since anyone had sent me flowers.
I could/should/would open the card, but savoring the anticipation was half the fun. I guess maybe that’s a femme thing. Or maybe a girl thing, or a woman thing. I was in no rush to discover who’d sent me flowers. No matter what, it would be a surprise; I’d been single for a long while. Maybe I was single during my marriage—there’s a sobering thought.
The last ones I’d gotten were from the parents of a client—as a thank you for helping the daughter they adopted from Russia make peace with some rough stuff from her past. I’d been a psychologist in private practice for twenty years. So nice to receive gratitude for work that was so rarely acknowledged.
The sky was still light when I reached forward to the glass coffee table to set down my empty tea cup. I was awake for real. The Earl of Grey will do that to a girl.
I flipped the card over. Whoever had sent these had not written the card. I flipped the flap out of the envelope and opened the surprisingly elegant card. Heavy white paper said For you … in fancy script.
Thank you for your healing touch. I’d like to feel that again. When shall we dine? Raven
My belly did a flip-flop in just the right way.
Well, she did promise to ask, and ask she did. I wondered if she knew that I would never seek her number and call her. Ever.
I flipped the card over thinking maybe she’d included her phone number, but no. Even if she had, I would never have called it.
And then I wondered how she knew where I live. Or how she found out.
Then I got it that if she’d done that, she’d likely be able to get a number to call me.
I said, out loud, “Raven, these are gorgeous! Thank you so much. When do you want to dine, darling?”
I was fully aware she couldn’t hear me, but you never knew what floated through the ethers by intention. Regardless, I meant to let her know that I was available for her call. At the very least, on a cosmic level. Now we’d see if, no, when, she’d get it together to do so.
I hoped for soon. Whatever that meant.
Late Sunday afternoon. I had a full day the next day. I used my front room to see my patients. It worked for me. In fact, I’d always liked working at home—long before it was “done.” I was grateful that Nate had chosen a weekend for his marathon labor and delivery. It meant I had the evening to myself—a rarity in my life. I booked myself solid so that I didn’t have to touch the creeping loneliness that threatened to engulf me any time I got quiet.
Shaking off the chill of the setting sun, I put on a fleecy robe and brought my phone out with me to sit on the porch and enjoy the last of the late afternoon. I checked my schedule for the week, confident I was booked, and I was. Relief is what allowed me to relax. As I finally closed the calendar, the cellphone rang.
I let it go to voicemail. My ex. She was one of those I-always-keep-my-ex-lovers-as-friends types. I was not. Or I never had been. So far. I didn’t want to deal with her that evening. Sometimes I managed it, but the aroma of the flowers—so sweet—had brought me to an interiorly bittersweet place.
I’d known Shelby for eleven years and been married to her for ten of those years. On paper, we were compatible in every way. We had lots of common interests. We knew people in common before we knew one another. We’d met in transit, on a runway in Chicago, connected, and I’d moved from Sedona to Boston within months. A year after we met we’d bought the condo in Somerville and gotten married on that postage stamp of a back porch on Halloween.
I’d stayed way too long at the fair, giving it every last chance to work, and it hadn’t. The divorce negotiations were fraught, painful. She was so angry. I defaulted to hurt. I refused to let the lawyers negotiate it. Or write the documents. No-fault divorce in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a no-brainer. A baboon could fill out the paperwork. I did every speck of the work to get it done, and I’d asked for very little.
Ultimately it morphed into being easiest for me to keep the condo, for which I was alternately dazzlingly grateful and colossally annoyed. In fact, I wondered if staying in Boston was the right thing for me. I couldn’t go anywhere without it reminding me of something Shelby and I had done together. Eleven years is long enough to form habits, believe me.
As I was working myself into a lovely lather, the phone rang again. This time Rosie and Jase called from the hospital with a cooing Nate, and Jase’s parents. They had decided to ring me to tell me how grateful they were that I had been there with them. It had gotten cold as they face-timed me to the bambino so I went inside and we had a grand old time. I disconnected beaming. There’s nothing like new life to chase away the blues of an old one.
And then the damn thing rang again.
All information was provided by the author and not edited by us. This is so you get to know the author better.