“Okay. Thank you.”
I hung up before she could respond.
“Hey, hey. Wait.”
I’d been reaching for Nova’s seat belt when Nate handed me clothes from the bag he brought. He pushed them into my hands. “I’m dressed. I’ll get her out. You dress. We’ll hand off. You go in, and I’ll park the car.”
Right. That made sense.
I took the clothes, not caring one iota what he grabbed me. I was blind in looking at the clothes, just identifying what they were and pulling them on.
I’d forgotten shoes.
He was outside Nova’s door now and lifting her from the seat. He saw my feet and nodded to the front. “I grabbed a pair for you.”
I was so grateful but so panicked at the same time. I reached forward, grabbing a pair of yoga shoes that I kept by the door, and slipped them on.
Nate had Nova cradled against his chest and was lightly bouncing her up and down when I stepped out. He handed her over. She wasn’t screaming, but she was still fussing. Her head burrowed into my shoulder. I knew another cry was coming.
I felt Nate brushing my hair back before he stepped around me. “Okay. Be back.”
The ER doors slipped open for me as I went in. A security guard met me just as Nate was pulling away.
I was waved through a metal detector and went to the front desk.
After checking in, I was pacing with Nova in a corner when Nate came in.
I hadn’t noticed at the house, but the memory of him with no shirt and only in his boxer briefs came back to me. He would’ve made the most physically fit male dancers envious, and I was remembering it all now because I wasn’t the only one noticing him. Half the females in the room were gawking at him. The front desk nurse had her mouth on the floor before she jerked upright, a bright smile on her face. He only looked at her for a second before finding me.
He stalked my way.
Only looking at me.
A few women a couple seats away from me sucked in their breath, but he bypassed them and stopped right before me. “Give her to me. You look ready to fall over.”
I wasn’t, but I did have to go to the bathroom.
Some of my panic had lessened, so other requirements were needing my attention.
I slipped away, a little breathless for some reason, but as soon as I finished and stepped back into the hallway, I heard Nova’s screams once again.
Valerie, help me.
I knew she wouldn’t answer me, but I sent the silent prayer without thinking about it. My panic was back, full bore, and I wasn’t beyond asking anyone for help. As I returned, seeing a few women trying to help Nate with Nova, my whole body locked down. I wanted to take their arms and rip them away from him and her.
They were mine. No one else’s.
But Nate looked up, seeing me, and he shifted farther out of their reach.
He met me halfway through the lobby, and by now, we were center stage. Everyone’s attention was watching us. As I cradled Nova against my chest, a weird and warm sensation came over my back. I smelled lilac, Valerie’s favorite perfume, and I froze for a second. In the next instant, Nova’s entire body rippled as her tension left her. She burrowed back into me, and she was asleep in the next breath.
Nate met my gaze, both of us surprised.
I nodded. “She’s asleep.”
A half-laugh came from him. “Jesus. Wish I could do that.”
When we were called, we were led to a room. Three nurses came in with us to ‘help out.’ A couple of nurses stood outside the room, and I heard someone telling them to get to their patients right before a doctor came in. She was tall, thin. Her dark hair was cut short, and she had no-nonsense eyes. She skimmed over us, lingering on Nate before her attention went to Nova.
It never wavered from Nova after that.
That was the final diagnosis.
We were given some medicine to put in Nova’s ears, but with Nate’s history, the doctor told us we might as well get used to this happening.
“Is there anything we can do to prevent it?”
“As of now, not really. Clean her ears regularly, which I’m sure you’re doing already. I had one kid who constantly had earaches until he turned sixteen. I had another who had nothing wrong with him, and now he’s the one we worry about as an adult. So, it’s hit-and-miss sometimes. Just keep an eye on her ears. Use the drops for her ear, and it should clear out in a couple of days.”
She gave us a phone number to call for an after-hours consultant since ER visits weren’t always necessary, but we were also told it was better to be safe than sorry.
As we were bundling Nova up, who was now loving all the attention she was getting from everyone, all the nurses coming in to say hello to her, the doctor asked me, “You’re that dancer, aren’t you?”
I was startled. Of either of us, I’d assume Nate would be recognized.
She nodded again, washing her hands and grabbing a towel. “My daughter dances. You’re a local god to her. Can I get an autograph? If that’s okay? If not, this is doctor/patient confidentiality. She won’t even know I ever met you.”
“Oh.” A warmth spread through me. I took the pen and paper she offered and signed my name. “Her name?”
I wrote a small message, adding a heart at the end, and handed it back.
She took it, holding it and making sure it didn’t tear. “She’s going to scream when I give this to her.” Then the moment was done. A professional mask came back, and she nodded to Nova. “Make sure to call her pediatrician in the morning. Fill her in on the visit. She’ll be able to pull your file.” She went over to Nova and leaned down.
By this time, Nova was enamored with her.
The doctor smiled. “Hey there, little angel. You feel better and be good for your parents, hmmm?”
Nova started babbling back, waving her hands in the air. She was trying to tell the doc about Miss Penguin.
The doctor gave us another smile before heading out. “Hope you both get some sleep after this. Have a good rest of the night. Can’t wait to see your next production.”
A few of the nurses were now giving me new looks, but it wasn’t long until we were both heading back out to the parking lot. Nate had Nova in his arms.
All eyes were on us, and I couldn’t blame them.