I nodded, agreeing.
“Okay.” He clapped me on the shoulder. “We celebrating tonight? I fly out tomorrow.”
I smiled at him, just smiling.
“Emily is leaving in an hour.”
His mouth pursed together. “That means…?”
“Welcome to the life of being a parent. We ain’t going anywhere unless I can bring my daughter.”
“Right.” He took a deep breath. “Nova’s like the opposite of Mason’s kids. She’s, like, perfect. Not loud. Or hardly ever loud. Mason’s kids are hellions.”
I raised an eyebrow. “You surprised about that?”
“I’m just saying. Valerie must’ve been super nice because you were a massive dick when we were kids.”
I glared. “We’re toilet training. Guess what shift you just signed up for?”
Screams ripped through the room, and I was out of bed and sprinting before I opened my eyes.
That was Nova.
Nova needed me.
I burst through the door but drew up short. Nate was already there, and he was picking her up. Cradling her to his chest, he glanced at me over his shoulder. “I don’t know what’s wrong.”
I rushed to him, and I couldn’t stop myself. I took her from him. Probably not the right thing to do, but I needed to hold her. I needed her.
Her little body trembled in my arms, and tears ran down her face. She was pale, and a blood-curdling scream was coming from her.
I’d read everything on infants.
What was I forgetting? What could this be?
I checked her forehead. She didn’t feel like she had a temperature.
Nate checked her diaper. She was still dry.
He stepped back, his eyes wide and panicked. His hair was sticking up all over, and he’d come straight from his bed. No shirt. Only boxer briefs.
Another scream left her, and I cursed. I was the one trembling more now. “Car.”
“ER.” I was starting for the garage, even as I spoke. I wasn’t taking a chance. When there was something seriously wrong with kids, they declined fast and fierce. I. Wasn’t. Taking. A. Chance.
Nate was coming behind me. “We could call Emily?”
“Your mom!” He took my elbow, holding me back. “Stop.”
I turned on him, almost hissing. My heart was pounding so hard. “I lost Valerie. I’m not losing Nova!”
He drew back, his face closing up. Then he nodded. “Hold on. I will drive, but we both need clothes.”
I heard him cursing, then he was running behind me.
I grabbed my phone and purse, and I was crying as I put her in her car seat. I was in the seat next to her, trying to comfort her, and I was fumbling on my phone. I wasn’t totally beyond being rational. My mom would be a good person to call, but we were still going to the ER.
Nate had pulled on sweats and a hoodie. He had a bag with him, and I glimpsed him holding some of my clothes, then he was getting in his seat.
My mom answered at that moment, her voice drowsy. “Quincey?”
I put her on speaker. “She won’t stop screaming. What’s wrong with her?”
I heard a male voice on her end, then she said, “It’s Quincey. Nova’s screaming.”
She came back, sounding calmer. “Quincey, honey. Did you check her temperature?”
“Her forehead seemed fine, but—” As I spoke, Nate reached into the bag on the passenger seat and handed me a thermometer. I took it, and added, “I’m taking it now.” I moved Nova’s arm aside and put it in her armpit. She was wiggling around, still crying, but some of the screams had lessened. I waited for the beep. “97.”
“Okay. That’s in the normal range.”
I was looking her over. “There’s no rash on her. She’s not coughing. No mucus.”
Dear God. What was wrong with her?
I felt tears but pushed them away. Not the time.
I was so scared.
I looked up. Nate was watching me in the rearview mirror. “It’s probably just ear pain. I had this when I was a kid, too. My parents told me stories of how I’d scream because my ears were hurting.”
“Oh, yes. It could be that. A doctor would need to look,” came from the phone before Stephanie laughed. “Valerie was always so sensitive, too. The slightest thing, and she’d be screaming her head off.”
They were both trying to help, but it wasn’t helping.
I needed to hear she was okay out of the doctor’s mouth.
I needed to see her quiet and sleeping peacefully.
Nothing else would do it, but I didn’t say that to either of them.
“Quincey, dear. Why don’t you sing to her? Distract her.”
A pain went through my chest. “I’m not the singer. That was Valerie.”
Nate pushed in a CD, and “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” came through the speakers.
Nova stopped screaming almost immediately. Her eyes got big, still watering, and she listened for a beat. I saw the next scream coming. Her eyes closed. Her face turned red, and the throat gods opened the way again.
I leaned over her and started singing with the music.
She stopped again, looking at me.
It lasted a beat.
“Nate!” I said.
Nate began singing with me, and my mom’s voice came over the phone. I was waving the device in front of Nova, and she tried grabbing for it. A slight squeal left her, then a hiccup. She got red again. Another scream was coming.
I started bobbing my head to the music.
She was distracted again.
I moved my hands around, the phone with me.
It was working. I needed something new every three seconds, but the screams were stopping.
She took in a deep breath, giant tears hanging from her eyelashes.
She looked so tired, and I could see the pain in her eyes.
My heart felt like it was ripping out of my chest.
We pulled up to the hospital. “We’re here, Mom.”
“Okay. Let me know when you know.”