He laughs. “He likes you,” he says quietly.
“Well, that’s one of us,” I toss back.
I try to maintain my aloofness, but I find that I kind of like the little guy.
Tag’s leg is pressed along the length of mine, and my shoulder touches his arm. He could move over some. There’s room on the other side of him.
“We brought you some baby stuff,” Star tells him. “You didn’t look like you had much with you.”
He heaves a sigh. “I don’t have much. But you really didn’t have to do that.”
She waves a breezy hand through the air. “Oh, it was nothing. Just some stuff my neighbor was tossing out.”
“Liar,” he says.
She grins. “Whatever.”
They sit and talk quietly while I finish feeding Benji. When his bottle is empty and his eyes are heavy, Tag adjusts him on my shoulder and picks up my hand to show me how to burp him. “Is he going to throw up on me?” I ask, panicking a little.
Peck tosses him a burp cloth and he slides it between my shirt and his kid’s face. I relax a little. Then the little guy lets out the biggest burp I ever heard. I’m about to sit him back from me so I can give him some serious props for that massive burp, but before I can move him far enough he spits up on me. White stuff flies out of his mouth and onto my shirt.
“Eww! Take it. Take it now.”
Tag laughs as he holds out his arms, and I pass Benji over. I get up to go and change. “A little puke won’t hurt you!” he calls to my back.
But what worries me more than anything isn’t the fact that I just got puked on. It’s the fact that I don’t mind nearly as much as I should.
I pace the floor with Benji in my arms. I have no idea what to do with him. He’s hot and his cheeks are rosy and he’s fretful. I haven’t known him that long, but he’s never been this fretful before. I bounce him gently on my shoulder and he just cries and cries. He won’t take a bottle, and he doesn’t need a clean diaper. I already checked.
Wren has been gone all night. I assume she’s out with the others, since no one is here but me. I’m all alone, my son is sick, and I have no idea what to do with him.
Suddenly, the front door opens and Fin tumbles into the apartment. She has a man with her, and he has his hand on her ass. She freezes when she sees me. He doesn’t. He spins her toward him so he can cover her mouth with his.
Rage clouds the corners of my vision. It’s swift and unexpected and I have no idea where it came from. It startles the crap out of me.
The guy who has his hand under her shirt freezes when she covers his hand with hers. “Stop,” she hisses. She lifts his hand from beneath her clothes and presses it away. He grimaces and pushes back. She steps away and adjusts her clothing. “Hi,” she says quietly to me. “What’s wrong?”
I look down at Benji. “I have no idea. He won’t stop crying.” I look toward her for help, but she’s staring at Benji, her brow puckered.
“Who’s this, Finch?” the guy asks.
“Shh!” she hisses at him.
He opens his mouth to speak again and she points to the door.
“You may go,” she says.
“What?” he croaks.
“Out,” she says. She walks to the door, holds it open wide, and she makes a quick “move along” motion with her hand. He hangs his head, clenches his jaw, and then squares his shoulders and leaves.
He turns back at the last moment. “Call me?” he says.
She slams the door in his face.
Benji’s cries grow even louder. “I don’t know what to do,” I say.
“Did you take his temperature?”
“I don’t have a thermometer.”
“Where’s his stuff?”
I point toward my room. As I pace back and forth, surely wearing a groove in the carpet, she goes into my room and comes back out with his diaper bag over her shoulder.
“Let’s go,” she says impatiently. She flaps her hands in the air.
“We’re taking the offspring to the hospital, dummy.” She motions me forward again. “Move it.”
My heart leaps into my throat. “You think he needs to go to the hospital?”
“I have no idea what he needs,” she says impatiently. She picks up his carrier and I put him in it.
He doesn’t stop screaming. He cries all the way down the hallway and into the elevator, and his sobs turn into sniffles as we get in the cab. He drifts off to sleep, but it only lasts for a moment. Then he cries again.
“I’ve never felt quite so helpless,” I say. I rub the top of his downy little head. He’s so beautiful. And I can’t even take care of him.
“They’ll get him all fixed up at the hospital,” she assures me. His car seat is in the middle of the back seat, and she’s on one side while I’m on the other.
“They have to see him there even if I don’t have money, right?” I ask quietly. My gut lurches. I hate even asking the question because saying it out loud is like affirming all the bad things my uncle told me my whole life.
I would never amount to anything.
No one could trust me.
No one can count on me.
I can’t even take care of my son.
I am nothing.
“They’ll see him,” she says. She lets Benji wrap his tiny little fist around her finger. “One way or the other,” she whispers, “they’ll see him.”