He Didn’t Have to Be

He was beautiful. That’s probably not the way you’re supposed to describe a boy, but since he was fresh from the oven, so to speak, I figured it was acceptable. At just two hours old I could already see whose features he had inherited. I saw his mother’s nose, my chin and my mother’s ears. Aiden Godric Northman was a beautiful little boy but I made a promise to myself never to tell him I once called him that.

“He’s beautiful,” my mother gasped and cooed at my side, staring into the nursery window. It was acceptable for my mother to call her first grandson beautiful.

“Good work, son,” Dad said as he nodded his approval. “He’s going to break a lot of hearts one day.”

“Oh, stop it! He can barely open his eyes,” Mom slapped at Dad playfully.

“Just wait until he does. You’ll be his first victim,” Dad teased Mom who just huffed, but we all knew it was true.

If it was possible, Mom was more excited about Aiden’s arrival than the rest of us, and that includes Sookie. My poor wife had been doing very well up until her due date came and went without Aiden making his grand entrance. A week later, he still hadn’t come out and she was threatening to smoke him out of need be. Finally there was concern he was getting too big and her doctor made the decision to induce her before our “Little Moose,” as Sookie called him, got any bigger.

He seemed tiny to me but Sookie pointed out it was all a matter of relativity. Sure he was small in my arms, but he was huge coming out of…well, you know where he came out of. Mom pulled me down to kiss my cheek and I found it hard to believe I was ever small enough to fit inside her, considering I was well over a foot taller than her.

“I’m so happy for you, baby,” her face was wet with tears. “I’m going to go check on Sookie.”

“Don’t wake her!” Dad and I said simultaneously, knowing Mom might do it unintentionally in all her excitement.

“So, son, how ya feelin’?” Dad asked once we were alone.

I took a deep breath and blew it out slowly. “Like my heart is sleeping right there,” I pointed through the window to where Aiden was sleeping soundly.

“It’s a great feeling, isn’t it?”

“Yessir, it is,” I agreed.

“Do you remember when Pam was born?” Dad asked with humor in his voice.

“That’s kind of hard to forget. She made sure it was a production and she’s been nothing but dramatic ever since,” I laughed quietly, wondering how much longer it would be before Pam arrived with her entourage in tow.

My half sister, as much as I loved her, didn’t travel lightly. She had been dramatic from the womb but at least she managed to parlay that into a hell of a career for herself. At the age of nineteen she won her first Oscar, and her second three years later. Pam was well on her way to becoming one of the greatest actresses to ever be discovered.

When I called her to tell her Sookie had gone into labor she was in Australia wrapping up shooting on her most recent project. She promised to be on the next plane she could and after working out a deal with the director to do her voiceovers in Los Angeles, she was on a private plane headed for home. To me she was just my little sister and always would be. I didn’t see a celebrity when Pam was around; I saw the little girl who colored all over my research paper in seventh grade because she was out of her drawing paper.

“Mind if I give you a little fatherly advice?” Dad asked quietly. He wasn’t really one to impose his opinion on others without being asked for it but I never minded hearing what Dad had to say.

“I’ll take all the advice I can get, Dad,” I smiled at him.

“When he tells you he hates you, and he will because all boys say that to their father at some point, that’s when you love him more,” Dad said simply. “Oh, and if you give him a sip of beer on his thirteenth birthday, for the love of God, don’t let his mother find out.”

I laughed heartily at the second piece of advice he offered, remembering how he had done that for me. Only Mom had found out and Dad spent a whole week riding the couch for it. Dad and I had our secrets, of course, as fathers and sons always do. I looked at Aiden and I couldn’t stop smiling. He looked like me but I knew, thanks to Dad, that wasn’t what mattered. What mattered was the love I felt for that tiny person in the next room. He was mine.

“What if I screw up, Dad?” I asked suddenly, and very quietly. Insecurity wasn’t a feeling I was familiar with.

“That, my boy, is inevitable,” Dad clapped me on the shoulder. “I remember when I first met your Mom. She told me about you first thing. I think it was a test to see if I’d run. I might have if she wasn’t who she was and you weren’t you. But you and me, we hit it off right away. There was no reason for me to run.”

I remembered it all too well…

I was five years old when I met Godric. I remember Mom hustling around the house, trying to tidy up and put on her makeup at the same time. She’d been on dates before and at the age of five; I didn’t understand why just me and her wasn’t good enough. I liked having Mom all to myself.

We got along well. She worked a lot but when she was home she spent as much time with me as she could. We played together, went to the park and it was from her that I learned how to cook and keep a house clean. Single, working mothers never got enough credit for everything they did, and I learned early on that my Mom was Wonder Woman. She was the whole world to me.

It seemed like every guy she went out with wasn’t the right fit for one reason or another. Either they couldn’t handle me being in the picture, or they didn’t understand why she didn’t have more time for them. Mom didn’t bring many men around the house that weren’t just friends of hers. But she hadn’t even gone out on a date yet with Godric and she was talking on the phone with her girlfriends about how she thought maybe she had found ‘the one.’

At that age, I didn’t know what she was talking about. All I knew was it was another guy coming into the picture that might try and take my Mom away from me. I was protective of her. I had developed a good sense of who was worth the trouble and who wasn’t. I read people well. The dates I did get the chance to meet, Mom always asked me what I thought. If the guy didn’t work for me, then he didn’t work out. Mom always said anyone she dated had to work for both of us. There was a careful screening process on her part before she introduced anyone to me.

Looking back on it now, it was the smart thing to do. At the time, however, I felt like I was being left out. I didn’t like the number of nights I had to spend with a babysitter. I didn’t understand why it was so important she find me a father. That all changed, however, when I met Godric. He as the first guy I ever saw Mom with that made her blush and giggle. She was over the moon about him, and I’ll admit, I was too when I met him.

He was the first of Mom’s dates to treat me like I wasn’t a burden, or somehow in the way. He shook my hand and talked to me like I was an adult and not a five-year-old. And when he suggested they go see a movie, I was amazed when he said he wanted me to come along.

Paying a sitter is silly, Janine. Besides, you like movies, don’t you Eric?” Godric asked me with a friendly wink.

Yessir,” I nodded anxiously.

I was thinking we’d go see E.T.,” Godric smiled and I’m pretty sure that was the moment I fell in love with him.

Please, Mom, can we?” I begged her.

She comically looked back and forth between Godric and me like she was making the biggest decision of her life, and knowing what I know now, she probably was. Letting me get attached only for the relationship to fail meant she was stuck picking up the pieces. I don’t remember it since I was so young when my birth father left us, but Mom has told me before that I had a hard time adjusting after he was gone. As an adult, I’ve rarely thought about him at all.

Mom hemmed and hawed for a few seconds before another wink and a squeeze of her hand from Godric got her to make a decision. “Alright, we can go.”

We’ was music to my ears. I had never been invited to go out with Mom on one of her dates before. The three of us piled into Godric’s car, which was much nicer than the old clunker Mom was driving back in those days. I sat in the middle of the big back seat, looking everywhere my eyes could take in. I tuned out the small talk Mom and Godric were making in the front seat and instead focused on the music coming out of the speakers. At the age of five, I was pretty sure Journey was going to be the biggest band ever.

When we got to the movie theater Mom offered to pay for me but Godric wouldn’t hear of it. He paid for everything, including my own little tub of popcorn that he insisted I mix Junior Mints into. I haven’t eaten popcorn without them ever since that night. The movie became my new favorite and ever since, I make a point to watch it when I see it on TV. It’s also the only movie I’ve ever made sure to have on every form of recordable device since it came out. To me it’s not just a movie; it’s the start of having a real family.

E.T. was just the beginning. Godric made it a point to include me in things. We went on picnics, played baseball together and even went camping that summer. Mom let just the two of us go and it was the best weekend of my life, up till that point. Of course there were nights when they went out without me, but Godric always came in to say hello or goodnight before heading home. I didn’t mind it when he started sleeping over. It was cool to see him at the breakfast table in the morning.

He would help me with my homework and he taught me how to ride a bike. He let me help him change the oil in Mom’s car and he taught me the proper way to start a campfire. We did all sorts of father/son things together and it was obvious I was as in love with him as Mom was. Even better, he seemed to love us both in return. Things were going really well.

About six months into their relationship, the three of us were playing Hungry Hippos in the dining room when Mom announced it was time to get ready for bed. That meant taking a bath, cleaning up my toys, brushing my teeth and going to bed. Mom started the bath while I cleaned up my room. Mom would leave the bathroom door open while I was in the tub, but she didn’t necessarily stay in there with me with whole time. I knew better than to jump around or throw water all over the place.

Godric helped me put away my toys, even though he wasn’t really supposed to. He left me alone while I got undressed. I ran across the hall to the bathroom and climbed into the tub. I expected Mom would leave me to play with my plastic submarines and toy dinosaurs but instead she closed the bathroom door and knelt down next to me on the cold tile floor. She looked nervous. It was a look I had seen before and even though I tried not to show it, I started to panic a little. That look never meant anything good in the past.

Eric, sweetheart, can I ask you something?” Mom bit her bottom lip. She was definitely nervous.

Sure, Mom,” I answered her casually, doing a better job at masking my own nerves than she did hers. I kept right on playing with my toys while she phrased her question.

Do you like Godric?” She was nervous I might not like Godric? That didn’t seem right.

Of course I like him, Mom. He’s always nice to me and he makes you smile.”

Mom’s eyes filled with tears and she sucked in a deep breath. “I like him a lot, too.”

Why are you sad, Mom?” I asked her when a few tears rolled down her cheeks.

I’m not sad, baby,” she leaned over and kissed my head. “I’m very, very happy. I just want to make sure you’re happy too.”

I’m happy, Mom,” I assured her.

She nodded in satisfaction and then left me to play for a few minutes. When she came back she helped me get cleaned up. Once I was out of the tub I brushed my teeth and went across the hall to put on my pajamas and get into bed. My Mom was big on reading to me when I was little and as a result, I was able to read before I started first grade. She had been working with me on it since I was about four. I could read little words already, which most of my little friends couldn’t do yet.

I was surprised when it was Godric that came in to read to me instead of my Mom. Usually, if he was there when I was going to bed, I’d give him a hug before Mom tucked me in. But that night he asked me if it was okay if I read to him instead. I didn’t mind as long as I got my story. Mom had stopped reading me children’s books and had started reading me big kid books instead. She would read me one chapter a night.

I showed Godric which book we were reading and he seamlessly picked up where Mom left off. He even did voices and read the dialogue dramatically. Before I knew it the chapter was over and Godric was closing the book for the night. I wanted to ask him to keep going but I knew the rules and I was pretty sure he did too. He put the book back on its shelf and then sat on the edge of my bed.

He looked troubled, the same as Mom did when I was in the bathtub. He was acting like the usual Godric but his eyes were different. I didn’t know him well enough yet to know when he was nervous, but in looking back, that was exactly what he was feeling. Godric was pretty good at masking his emotions when he wanted to, although they were usually on display for the whole world to see.

Are you okay?” I asked him since I got the feeling something was wrong.

I’m fine, buddy. I just have a lot on my mind,” Godric said with an easy smile.

Is it because Mom was crying in the bathroom?” I asked him.

Your Mom was crying in the bathroom?” his look of concern only grew.

Yeah. She said it was because she was happy, but I don’t cry when I’m happy. I only cry when I’m sad or if I hurt myself,” I told him.

His smile grew and said, “Someday you’ll see girls cry for all sorts of reasons. My own mother used to cry at commercials on TV.”

She did?” It was a concept that boggled my childish mind. “Why?”

Who knows,” Godric laughed and shrugged.

That’s crazy.”

I agree with you,” he nodded, still laughing. “I have an important question to ask you.”

Okay.”

It’s really important you tell me the truth when you answer this, okay?” Godric looked serious but I didn’t think I was in trouble. “And no matter what you tell me, I promise it’ll be okay.”

Now, even at the age of five I was able to discern that this was a big deal. Whatever it was Godric was about to ask me was going to change things; I just had no idea what it was he was going to say.

Pinky swear,” I held out my little finger to him since it was the biggest promise I knew to make back then.

He hooked his pinky with mine the way my mother had done a million times. She always kept those promises and I got the feeling Godric would, too. He’d never broken a promise to me before. When he told me he would do something, or be somewhere, he always showed up. He never complained and he never let me down. He set an impossibly high standard for any other guy that might try to come into my life.

I’ve been thinking about you and your mom a lot. We have a lot of fun together, don’t we?” Godric asked me, which seemed a little strange.

Yeah!” I said excitedly, wondering if this was leading up to some big reveal of a plan he had up his sleeve. “I loved going camping and learning how to fish.”

Godric smiled warmly and nodded before he said, “And you don’t mind me spending time here?”

Heck no! Mom’s always in a better mood when you’re here.” That much was absolutely true. Mom was smiling, humming and didn’t seem to mind doing all the household chores she had grumbled about in the past. It was like Godric was a boost of energy to her spirit.

That’s good to hear,” Godric sounded relieved.

You’re not going to leave, are you?” I asked nervously. “I’d be sad if you left and so would Mom.”

No, Eric, I’m not leaving,” he assured me. “In fact, I was thinking maybe I want to be around more.”

How much more?”

Well, that’s what I need your most honest answer for. Can you give me your most honest answer?” he asked and I nodded that I could. “How about if I was here all the time?”

I thought it over for a few seconds. All the time… not just for a few hours after dinner or the occasional overnight stay, but all the time. It took me just those few seconds to nod excitedly. “Yes.”

Again, Godric looked relieved and asked, “Okay, I have one more question.”

Okay,” I nodded curious as to what else he wanted to know.

I know you’re the most important man in your Mom’s life and you always will be. Where she goes, so do you. I think we’re buddies, right?”

You’re my best friend,” I revealed to him, and it was the first time I saw a grown man cry. He wiped his eyes quickly, of course, but he definitely cried.

Would it be okay with you if I asked your Mom to marry me?”

Now that, I’ll admit, made me nervous. My Mom and birth father had been married, too, and that hadn’t ended very well. I didn’t learn until my teen years that my father had left my mother for another woman in his office. He married that woman shortly after my parents’ divorce was finalized and moved far away to start a new family. He didn’t call, write, come to visit or send me birthday cards. To him, it was like I didn’t exist. By the time I was ten, I didn’t remember him at all anymore.

Does that mean you’d be my Dad?” I asked Godric.

That’s up to you, buddy, but I’d like to be,” Godric said sincerely, that ball of emotion still lodged in his throat.

I think you’d be a good dad,” I told him. “And it’s okay with me if you marry my Mom.”

You’re sure?” Godric asked, almost as if he couldn’t believe I was agreeing to what he wanted.

I’m sure. I think it would make my Mom happy,” I told him.

I hope so,” Godric took a deep breath.

Are you nervous?” I asked him.

A little bit. This is a pretty big deal, little man.”

Wanna know what Mom always tells me when I get nervous?”

Sure,” he smiled at me.

She always says just picture everyone in their underwear. Then it won’t seem so bad,” I said without any idea of just how strange my suggestion was.

Godric laughed loudly and after that, he didn’t seem so tense anymore. “You’re a great kid, you know that?”

I know,” Even at such a young age I knew better than to argue when someone said I was great. “Good luck, Godric.”

Thanks buddy. Sweet dreams, yeah?”

I nodded and then put my arms up for a hug. Godric didn’t hesitate to lean down and give me the hug I wanted. He was going to be my dad. I watched him follow the same nighttime procedures Mom always did. He closed my shades, turned off the overhead light, closed my closet door and then left my bedroom door open just two inches so a little bit of light would filter in from the hallway. I didn’t really need the light but I liked being able to hear what was going on in the house until I was asleep.

Some nights Mom would be watching TV while she did her ironing or bill paying. Other nights she’d have the radio on while she folded laundry or flipped through the gossip magazines she subscribed to. When I got a little older and we finally had a VCR in the house she would watch her ‘stories,’ as she called them, after I went to bed for the night.

But that night I wanted to hear whatever it was Godric was going to say to my mother. I knew if he married her everything was going to be different. If it had been anyone else proposing to my Mom I probably wouldn’t have been so excited about it, but I liked Godric. No, actually, even then I loved him. I was excited that he was going to be my dad. It had always felt like something was missing, even though I didn’t really know how to put it back then. Mom and I were doing pretty good on our own but I liked things even better with Godric around.

Godric was speaking too quietly for me to hear everything he said to my Mom, but I knew he’d asked her to marry him when she gasped, squealed and then started sobbing. The next thing I knew she was shouting, “Yes! Yes! For the rest of my life, yes!”

I couldn’t help myself; I jumped out of bed and ran to the living room. I didn’t see them kiss very often but they were definitely kissing after she said yes. I giggled from behind the couch and they pulled apart. Godric kept his arm around Mom’s waist as she turned to me. There was a pretty diamond ring on her finger that hadn’t been there before, nor had I ever seen her smile the way she was in just that moment.

You’re supposed to be in bed, young man,” Mom tried to sound like a tough guy but she was too excited to pull it off.

Aw, come on, Janine, this is a celebration,” Godric winked to let me know he had my back.

Yeah, Mom, it’s party time!” I jumped up and down like the rambunctious little monster I could be sometimes.

No, it’s bedtime. We’ll talk about it in the morning, okay?” Mom moved away from Godric and scooped me up off the floor. How she had the strength to pick me up, I have no idea. I was big for my age.

Godric, will you be here in the morning?” I asked over Mom’s shoulder as she carried me back to my room.

Every morning until you move out,” Godric promised me with his pinky finger hooked in the air.

I grinned, and then buried my face in my mother’s neck. It wasn’t a done deal yet, but in that moment I knew we were a family.

By the time I reached adulthood, I had an entire collection of best moments and Godric—whom I started calling Dad before he even married my Mom- was in 98% of them. He was there when I joined the Cub Scouts. He was cheering me on when I hit my first homerun in Little League. He helped me write my speech when I was valedictorian of my eighth grade class. He taught me how to shave, how to drive and explained why I was waking up with sticky sheets some mornings. And thank God for that because Mom probably would have died of embarrassment.

Godric went to get coffee since it was so early in the morning and I’d been up all night. Aiden came just before sunrise after keeping Sookie writhing in pain for nearly twenty-four hours. She had refused to get any pain medication, even though I had tried to convince her she didn’t have to be a bad ass about it. But it wasn’t like Sookie to do anything halfway. She went balls to the wall on everything she did.

We met on the red carpet when Pam insisted I be her date for the Oscars when she won the second time around. Sookie was an entertainment reporter and was doing on-air interviews with just about every celebrity she could get her hands on. Pam had pulled me up onto the platform with her where Sookie was doing her interviews and the second our eyes met, I knew I was in deep shit.

She was beautiful, no doubt about it. She was dressed elegantly in a pretty ice blue dress with her long, blonde hair expertly curled and pulled back from her face. She was tan—which I later learned was her one vice- and had the most radiant smile I’d ever seen in my life. Her southern accent she so desperately tried to hide was music to my ears. It was a little piece of home far away in Los Angeles. She looked glamorous that night but I didn’t get the feeling she was the kind of girl who required fancy labels, expensive stylists or constant maintenance.

Pam and I were nearly inside the theater when a production assistant tracked us down and slipped a piece of paper in my hand; it was Sookie’s phone number. I didn’t see her again that night, even though I had convinced Pam to make an appearance at the Oscar party being thrown by the company Sookie worked for. I was too hungover the next day to make the necessary phone call, but the day after that I did.

We went on our first date three days after I called her and from the minute I picked her up from her little house in Santa Monica, I knew I’d found ‘the one.’ Finally, I really understood what Mom had been talking about with her girlfriends on the phone so many years before. Being with Sookie was challenging, at times, because I was pretty used to getting my way where women were concerned and Sookie was nowhere near a doormat.

We had our share of arguments but we were always able to find a compromise somewhere. During our more bitter arguments it was Godric who reminded me that relationships were rarely a perfect 50/50 balance; sometimes they were 70/30. The important thing wasn’t really the ratio of fairness, so long as we were both happy. It didn’t matter who called the shots and placing blame was a waste of time. The important thing was to keep our eyes on the prize.

We dated for a little over a year before I moved to California full-time to be closer to her. The traveling back and forth, and the stress of a long distance relationship, was starting to get to us both. I hated being without her and being in Louisiana started to feel like a waste. I liked California and not just because Sookie was there. I liked the atmosphere and the energy. Being so close to the water was also a bonus, considering how good Sookie looked in a bikini, and she also had an addiction to sunbathing.

We lived together for a year before I proposed to her and fifteen months after that, we were married. She came back from our honeymoon in Greece just in time for awards season to start. She continued with her job doing on-air reporting and I was working with a real estate development company as a project manager. We were doing very well both as a couple and individually. Even with the economy going in the tank, we didn’t take too much of a hit.

But then a little over a year ago we decided we were ready for the next step. Sookie had been reporting on-air for a little over five years and she was getting a little tired of being on TV all the time. I talked to some of my friends back home and a buddy from high school who owned a construction company was able to put me in touch with a local development firm in Shreveport. While Sookie was packing up our things in Santa Monica, I flew home to interview.

Alcide and I got along from the get-go and two days later I had a job offer to come work for him. With that in place, Sookie and I loaded our stuff onto a rental truck and drove back to Louisiana together. We stayed with my parents for a few days before we found a farmhouse in a tiny town called Bon Temps that Sookie fell in love with. The house needed some work, but it was fun to do it together on weekends.

At the same time we were trying to get pregnant. After three months we thought we had it, but she was just late. It took five months of trying before we learned we were pregnant with our first child. The pregnancy went about as smoothly as one could go. Sookie didn’t get morning sickness except for two weeks in her first trimester. Her boobs went from amazing to gargantuan, not that I was complaining. Her stomach stayed flat until about her fourth month and then she popped overnight. We woke up one morning and all of a sudden there was this bump sticking out of her stomach.

She complained, from time to time, about how fat her chin was, but I thought she looked beautiful. It was quite an experience to watch her body grow and change, the further along she got in the pregnancy. Feeling our son kick my hand, or face, when we were sitting together on the couch or lying in bed was one of the coolest things I’d ever experienced. It was amazing to see how fast he grew from one ultrasound to the next. Hearing his heartbeat sort of put me in a tailspin for a minute the first time we heard it.

I started thinking about what a huge responsibility having a child was and whether or not I would be any good at being a father. I wasn’t worried about technical stuff. I knew I could make sure the kid was clean, fed and healthy but that was the easy part. The harder part was making sure I taught this child the things it needed to know in order to survive in the world. Like the difference between right and wrong and why it was important to be respectful and kind to others.

With my son, it would be about teaching him to respect women and not be a douche bag. With my daughter, it would be about teaching her to stand up for herself without being a bitch. How did I do those things? I sought out the advice of the only person I could even think of asking: Godric.

We talked about it at length and he told me he’d been scared shitless when he first met me. He was afraid he would say all the wrong things or give me a reason not to trust him. He told me the best thing I could ever do for my kids was love their mother. Children were a big responsibility, but so was marriage and it was really easy to let the marriage slip through the cracks when kids came into the picture. He confessed he and Mom hit a rocky patch after Pam was born.

They were used to me, but I wasn’t waking up in the middle of the night or screaming for hours on end because I was teething. And Pam being Pam, well, it was no cake walk. He told me the only thing I could do was the best I could do at the time. There were no easy answers where kids were concerned since each of them would be different. What worked with me didn’t always work with Pam. Then again, I was often of the opinion Pam was her own species, which explained a lot.

I walked into Sookie’s room to find my mother sitting near the bed, holding Sookie’s hand but keeping remarkably quiet. Mom smiled when she saw me standing in the doorway. She let go of Sookie’s hand and vacated the chair so I could sit down.

“Where’s your father?” Mom whispered.

“Getting coffee,” I answered just as quietly.

“Are you hungry? I can get you some breakfast if you want,” Mom offered.

“That’d be great,” I sat down and closed my eyes for a few seconds.

“What about Sookie?”

“Coffee. Black. Lots of it.” I knew Sookie well. The first thing she would ask for after the baby was coffee. “Decaf,” I added when I remembered Sookie was going to give breastfeeding a try.

“Sure thing. Text me if you want anything else,” Mom blew a kiss at me and then went to go find Dad in the cafeteria.

I leaned forward, kissed Sookie’s hand and then resumed my relaxed pose with my eyes shut. I think I was immediately asleep but it couldn’t have been more than five minutes before a nurse wheeled Aiden’s little basinet into the room. My eyes opened when I heard his little gurgles and snorts. I pushed myself up out of the chair and went around to pick him up.

“I’ll be back in a few minutes to get this little guy fed,” the nurse warned with a smile before heading back to the nursery.

Aiden was just over nine pounds and twenty inches long. He was a big boy. It wasn’t surprising since Mom said I had been pretty big as well. Already there was a tuft of downy blond hair on his head. His eyes were a deep shade of blue but there was no guarantee they would stay that color. In fact, I hoped they lightened a little more like Sookie’s. I’ll never forget the way her dress matched her eye color the night we met.

Aiden felt practically weightless in my arms. I stared down into his little wrinkled face and felt my heart swell. He squirmed a little and then snorted. He sucked his bottom lip and poked his little tongue out. When he started to fuss, it was maybe one of the best things I’d heard since hearing his heartbeat for the first time almost seven months before.

“How is he?” Sookie asked sleepily from behind me.

I turned around to see her smiling faintly but her eyes were still closed. “I think he’s getting hungry, but he’s doing great. Wanna hold him?”

“Nah, take your time. I got to hold him for forty-one weeks and two days,” Sookie smirked sleepily.

I leaned over the bed to kiss her forehead. “Mom and Dad are here. They went to get food and coffee for us.”

“God bless them. I need decaf.”

“It’s on its way, I promise,” I sat down in the chair next to the bed. “So is Pam, by the way. I talked to her about an hour ago. She should be here this afternoon.”

“She’s not bringing her entourage, is she?” Sookie whimpered as she shifted in the bed.

“I asked her to leave her keepers and minions at home since this is a family affair and there won’t be any reporters waiting for her.”

“Good,” Sookie opened her eyes and smiled when she saw me holding the baby. “He has your chin.”

I laughed quietly and said, “Yeah, I noticed that. He’s got your nose.”

Sookie laughed and said, “I think he’s got Dad’s nap.”

I couldn’t argue with that and it took all the restraint I had not to bark out a laugh that would have terrified our son. Godric had a very distinct snore pattern when he slept and it seemed Aiden had inherited that. I found it funny how Sookie was the one to pick up on it first. Although she had certainly become close with my parents since we moved back to Louisiana and Godric in particular. The two of them took to each other immediately, almost like they were old friends.

“You know before Dad came into my life, I didn’t really think there was anything missing from it. Mom and I were a pretty solid team, but then Dad appeared almost out of thin air and from the minute I met him I knew things were going to be different. And now I’m looking at Aiden and I know my life will never be the same. I don’t think about my birth father very often, but at moments like these I wonder how he ever could have walked away like he did.” I shook my head and smiled at Aiden as his tiny fist wrapped around my index finger.

It completely bypassed me how any father could knowingly walk away from their child. Just one look at Aiden’s face was all it took for me to know I was exactly where I belonged, and despite all my fears to the contrary, everything was going to be okay. I would learn as I went and no one was expecting me to be perfect but me. I would follow Godric’s advice and do the best I could at any given moment.

“I think he did you a favor, Eric,” Sookie reached for my hand and I gave it to her.

“I know he did,” I lifted her hand and kissed her knuckles. “And if I’m half the father Godric has been to me then I’ll be in good shape.”

“You’re going to be great; I know it,” Sookie said confidently.

Aiden started fussing again, only there was no soothing him. My boy was hungry and I definitely didn’t have the necessary equipment to handle that problem. I passed him off to Sookie, who had pushed the call button for a nurse. I never would have guessing breastfeeding was complicated, but apparently it required instructions.

Thankfully Godric knocked when they returned with coffee and breakfast. I put a blanket up over her shoulder to cover Sookie a little bit before letting my parents in the room. Of course Mom went straight to Sookie to congratulate her and steal a quick look at Aiden, who was happily nursing. Sookie was practically drooling over the fruit salad Mom had procured for her and I gladly fed it to her while she nursed.

It wasn’t long before Mom’s camera appeared, and even though she was exhausted and definitely not camera-ready, Sookie smiled for pictures. I took a picture with my cell and sent a mass text to just about everyone we knew to let them know Aiden had arrived safely and that Sookie was doing okay. Mom assured me the New Mother’s Auxiliary at church would be bringing us meals and coming by to help keep the house in order for the few first couple of weeks.

Mom and Dad stayed until Pam arrived and promised to be at the house to greet us in the morning. Dad volunteered to take our dog out to let him run around and play with him for a bit. Pam walked in armed with presents, balloons and a bottle of sparkling cider since Sookie couldn’t drink champagne while nursing.

“If his diaper gets soggy, I’m not changing it,” Pam warned when Sookie passed Aiden to her.

Her announcement wasn’t at all a surprise. There wasn’t much about Pam that suggested she’d make a good mother. She was narcissistic, selfish and impatient, and that was just on her good days. She was going to make a great aunt only because she would come with great presents and funny stories to tell.

“Lucky for him he looks like his mother,” Pam stuck her tongue out at me while she gently bounced Aiden in her arms.

“That’s what worries me,” I muttered and shook my head.

“You hush,” Sookie narrowed her eyes at me when I sat at the edge of her bed. “And don’t get too close to me. I am in desperate need of a shower.”

The three of us made small talk for a while with Pam telling stories about her time in Australia. If there was one thing I knew about Pam it was that she always had a good story just waiting to be told. I guess that was part of what made her such a successful actress. She had an eye for things that were interesting.

“You know what’s funny?” Pam asked without looking up from her sleeping nephew.

“What’s that?” Sookie snuggled against me when I pulled her closer.

“Little Man has Dad’s snore,” Pam observed, which sent Sookie and I into round of quiet laughter.

It was yet another great day in my life, and Dad was there to witness it. I could only hope someday my own son would say the same for me.

-FIN-

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