Thanksgiving Day one year later…
Hearing my father-in-law’s yell, I glanced over at the TV and saw the Cowboys had just allowed their quarterback to get sacked, pushing them back another five yards.
And then my eyes went right back to watching Sookie like a hawk.
Sitting at the dining room table because “Cushions hate me now,” her hands rested on her baby belly, while she talked to her mom and Gran, who were setting the table.
Now twelve days past her due date, I was ready to leap out of my skin at the slightest twitch.
I hadn’t been paying attention to anything being said and instead was singularly focused on Sookie’s facial expressions and her involuntary reactions. We’d had two false alarms already, so when she’d woken up with mild contractions that morning, she refused to go the hospital, only to be told it was another false alarm.
Actually, her exact words were, “We’ll go when I’m crowning. Let them send me home then!”
She’d been moody – to put it mildly – but I could understand her frustration. We’d been waiting to meet little him or her for what felt like forever now, but it was Sookie who bore the brunt of it all.
She couldn’t get comfortable.
She couldn’t sleep for more than a couple of hours at a time.
She was restless and at the same time too tired to do much more than pace around the house.
But I’d caught her doing jumping jacks, hoping to speed things along, just the night before.
She looked ridiculous.
And I loved her even more.
At her last appointment the day before, the doctor told her if she didn’t go in to labor on her own, he was going to induce labor on Saturday morning, so her mood had brightened knowing the end was in sight.
But until then, I refused to let her out of my sight.
Her go bag had been packed and sitting in the trunk of the car for a month now.
She’d dubbed it Wishful Thinking.
But I knew what the real hold up was.
One – The baby she was carrying was mine.
Of course it didn’t want to leave her body.
That was how she’d gotten pregnant to begin with.
I never wanted to leave her body either and was inside of it as often as I could be.
But more importantly…
Two – Karma had reared its ugly head was fucking me in the ass again by keeping me on pins and needles, waiting for the baby to be born.
Being a first responder, I knew all of the things that could go wrong. The fact her pregnancy had been completely normal and relatively easy on her, only made me even more afraid that something would go wrong during the actual birth.
After all, karma did love fucking with me.
“Aren’t you late?”
Glancing over at Jase, sitting on the couch beside me, I saw he was looking at Sookie, so my eyes returned to her in time to see her huff in his direction and say, “God…did you not hear me bitching about that very thing? I just said I was twelve days late!”
“I ain’t talkin’ about that,” he glared back at her. “I’m talkin’ about you bein’ late for the parade.”
The town always had a parade on Veteran’s Day, but that was a little over two weeks earlier.
Something Jason would know, since the police force was always there.
“The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York,” he replied.
And then he sealed his own fate when he added, “God knows you’re big enough and blowing enough hot air over there to be one a them balloons they fly overhead.”
My eyes closed, not wanting to see the inevitable carnage, and I could feel my head shaking at his stupidity, while I slid further away from him on the couch – I didn’t want to be caught in the crossfire – and mumbled under my breath, “You really were dropped on your head as a baby. It was nice knowing you.”
I never would’ve guessed I’d saved his life, only for it to be ended by his sister.
But he was on his own now.
C’est la vie.
But if the baby turned out to be a boy – we hadn’t found out the sex of the baby, wanting it to be a surprise – we could always name it Jason in his memory.
If Sookie had forgiven him by then.
But knowing the baby would be here no later than Saturday, I doubted that would be enough time.
She held a grudge like it was the last Chocodile on earth.
The chocolate covered Twinkies had been her pregnancy craving.
A word to the wise?
Don’t stand in between a pregnant Sookie Northman and her Chocodiles.
You don’t stand a chance.
I heard her sharp inhale, but before she could let loose on him it was my father-in-law who spoke up and said, “Smells like the turkey’s done. Do me a favor, boy, and go kick the oven door open and see if it’s ready.”
“Ha…ha…” Jason glared.
I probably would’ve felt more sorry for him, if he hadn’t brought it on himself.
Both on that day in Pale Rider and less than two minutes earlier by giving his pregnant sister a hard time.
But my eyes shot back to Sookie hearing her say, “Uh…”
And seeing her looking down at the puddle now dripping down from the chair she was sitting in, I quickly realized her sharp inhale had nothing to do with giving her brother a rash of shit.
It had to do with giving her brother a niece or nephew.
By the time she was looking up again, I was already on my feet headed her way, when she stared back at me and fearfully said, “I think the button just popped on our little turkey too. It’s ready to come out of the oven.”
Cue complete and utter chaos.
Her father channeled his former profession and barked at all of us, fruitlessly trying to direct traffic between the dining room, living room, and the front door.
Her mother ran off to get towels, only to return with enough of them to dry the entire US Olympic swim team – and then some – and proceeded to origami one into a diaper she then used to wrap my wife’s lower half in.
Her Gran used the napkins she’d been setting the table with to clean up the chair Sookie had been sitting in and then followed behind a now beach towel diapered Sookie, on her hands and knees, wiping up the trail of amniotic fluid she was leaving on her way to the door.
But it was Jason who ultimately turned into our savior.
I’d been too busy trying to get Sookie out of the house to react to anything else, so he was the one to step up and step in between us and the rest of them, shouting out, “You all just stop!”
The folded wet towel Michelle had been holding up against Sookie’s ass fell to the floor with a splat, now that Jason was standing in between her and Sookie’s ass.
So Adele – already down there – grabbed onto it and used it wipe up more drips, while Jason barked out, “You all are just going to stop and let them get out of the damn house!”
Seeing my golden opportunity, I scooped up Sookie in my arms bridal style and ran out of the door, calling over my shoulder, “Owe ya one, Jase! See you all at the hospital!”
“You’re never touching me again!” she screamed with her next contraction, contradicting herself at the same time by gripping my hand even tighter in her fist.
“It’s cute that you think that,” I teased, earning me her cut-a-boo-boo-bitch death glare.
But since she’d been in labor for the last eight hours and was in the middle of pushing our baby out of her body, I didn’t think she would actually stop, just to kick my ass.
You never knew though.
Sookie was as stubborn as they came.
So, in my mind, that meant the baby took more after its mother, since it was just as stubborn about being born when it wanted to be born.
And anxious to see little him or her myself, I leaned down and pressed my lips against her sweaty forehead, saying, “Now push.”
Twenty minutes later – and after much swearing on Sookie’s part – the doctor lifted our little turkey into the air and said, “It’s a boy!”
We had a son.
I would’ve sworn on a stack of bibles that having a son would’ve made me feel relieved – more sure footed – than if we’d had a girl.
I’d never been so wrong.
Because seeing his tiny little face turning red, from squawking at the top of his tiny little lungs, I felt the air leave my own and the tears fall down my face, feeling both elated and scared to death about what the future would hold.
What if I did something wrong?
What if I didn’t do anything right?
What if I really did drop him on his head?
So watching them clamping the umbilical cord and then handing me the scissors to cut in between the two, I looked back at Sookie and seriously said, “I think we should put him back.”
Inside of her, he was safe.
Outside of her was where all of the dangers were.
Even now, I was holding a pointy stabby pair of scissors in my hand and I knew exactly the kinds of dangers to be had with pointy stabby things.
What if I inadvertently raised him to be one of those kids who runs with scissors?
He could poke his own eye out.
“He’s not going to poke his own eye out,” Sookie chuckled – along with the doctor and the nurses in the room – making me realize I’d said at least some of my thoughts out loud.
Then sounding serious herself, she added, “But if you even think about putting him back, I’m going to poke more than just your eyes out.”
As much as I felt like I should argue my very valid point, I also knew how insane my thoughts were.
There was no going back for him.
Poor little guy got that from his old man.
Once I’d met his mother there had been no going back for me either.
After I cut the cord, they placed him on Sookie’s chest, so I leaned down and kissed her temple, staying there so we could both stare at him and simply said, “Thank you.”
It had been a blanket thank you, encompassing everything – from the day we’d first met to right at this very moment – but not knowing that, Sookie only smiled tiredly and said, “This is where I should be thanking you because I wouldn’t have him without your help. But after pushing him out all by myself, I’m totally taking all of the credit.”
“You deserve all of the credit,” I smiled.
I never would’ve guessed I could love someone so much in an instant, but staring at our son, I knew I was wrong.
“I am not doing that five more times,” she warned before giving me a small smile and adding, “Just saying…”
I didn’t comment, but only because it made sense to see how well we did with this one before thinking about adding another one to the mix.
I still liked the idea of having a big family though.
But I also knew now wasn’t the time to bring it up.
“What’s your name, little fella?” she asked, running her hand over his down covered head.
We hadn’t settled on any one name, but now that I knew he was a he, only one name felt right given everything we’d gone through to get to where we were now.
I didn’t even give Sookie the chance to say she’d been kidding when she actually agreed to it and headed out to the waiting room to tell the news to the dozen or so family members and friends who had all been there.
“It’s a boy,” I announced, with a huge smile on my face as soon as I stepped through the door. “Weighing in at eight pounds and fifteen ounces, Axl Northman was born at 8:15 pm.”
Labor Day the following year…
Bearing down for the length of her next contraction, when it finally let up, she whipped her head my way and snarled, “You are never touching me again!”
“I don’t need to,” I chuckled. “You obviously can’t keep your hands off of me or else we wouldn’t be here.”
Here in the Labor and Delivery ward, barely ten months after we’d last been there.
“I hate you,” she snarled, trying to twist her barely contained grin into something more intimidating.
“That’s alright,” I smiled back. “I have enough love to go around.”
And there was more than enough lovin’ going on between us, or else we wouldn’t be there.
But at least this time I wasn’t so nervous. We got the hang of taking care of AJ pretty quickly, but with a baby, you pretty much had to.
It was sink or swim.
He was a great baby though, sleeping through the night before he was even two months old.
Granted, the night only lasted five to six hours now – when before it had lasted from sundown to sun up – but five to six hours of sleep was more than we’d been expecting to get.
And comparing notes with Tray and Amelia we knew we’d won the lottery in babies.
So –in a word – our son was perfect.
But the jury was still out on our second one.
We knew we were having another boy, but only because he’d chosen to do a spread eagle pose and show us the full monty the moment the ultrasound wand had been placed on her belly.
He was a Northman, so of course there was no doubt what we were seeing between his legs.
Hopefully the need to show the world what genetics had blessed him with wouldn’t last throughout his lifetime.
Or – at least – my lifetime.
But at least we still had Jason on the force to keep him from having a long and storied rap sheet.
“I wonder if he’s always going to be this literal,” Sookie panted out, with the numbers on the machine measuring her contractions beginning to spike again.
“What do you mean?” I asked, holding her hand and using my free one to push the stray hairs off of her sweaty forehead.
“Bobby insisting on being born on Labor Day.”
Where she was nearly two weeks late the last time around, Bobby decided he’d had enough and was coming out two weeks early.
AJ had been the one to name him though.
Still learning all of the sounds he could make, whenever he’d patted on Sookie’s growing belly over the last couple of months, we would tell him, “Baby.”
And he would say, “Bub bub bub bub.”
So Bobby it was.
Because there was no way in hell we were naming our kid Bubba.
“Maybe he’s just trying to right his brother’s wrongs,” I smiled. “AJ was two weeks late, so he’s coming two weeks early to even it all out.”
She was back to snarling, but now that she was obviously in the middle of another contraction, I didn’t take it personally.
How could I be mad when she was giving me everything I’d ever wanted?
A family with her.
Christmas Eve the following year…
“Seriously,” she glared. “If you even think about touching me again, I’m going to turn you into a eunuch.”
We were having twins this time around, so I couldn’t blame her for threatening violence.
And we knew we were having boys again.
Her belly had gotten so big so quickly that the doctor had performed an ultrasound earlier than the last two times and that’s when he confirmed there were two of them. And we were told because they shared a placenta they would definitely be identical twins.
Long live the curse.
As much as she loved my forearms and biceps in limerick form, it was another part of me she loved the most.
And the most often.
So I smirked when I said disbelievingly, “Uh huh. We’ll see about that.”
She couldn’t keep her hands off of me.
And at her continued glare, I possibly dug my grave even deeper. But my intent was to try and get her to laugh to take her mind off of the fact she was about to push out two more Northmans in a little over two years.
We had a two year old and a one year old.
And now we were about to have two newborns.
I’d gotten a promotion a few months earlier that came with a bigger paycheck and we’d moved into a bigger house, so I knew we could handle it financially. And Sookie had proven time and again that she’d been born to be a mom.
She was great at it.
But having four kids under the age of three was enough to drive anyone insane and since we’d only been trying to have the first one, we’d reached the point where it was either laugh or cry.
And I’ve mentioned how much I hated to see her cry.
So in an effort to keep that from happening, I cocked my eyebrow at her and dramatically swept my hand down the front of my body, while saying, “You know you can’t resist the Lushbody.”
At least her lady libido couldn’t.
But my efforts worked because even though I knew she had another contraction coming up on her, she still managed to laugh out, “Oh my god! The size of your ego affects the tides more than the moon.”
Unintentionally proving the validity of the latter half of her statement, I gave her my best sexy eyes and said, “I believe you were saying something to that effect when these two were conceived.”
“Oh. My. God,” I replied to her challenging expression.
I left out the part where she’d been chanting it over and over again.
But she’d been there.
She’d known what she’d said.
But here and now, having heard what I’d just said, if she could’ve smacked me, she would have.
Which was why I kept her hand in mine and refused to let go of it.
I was no dummy.
And an hour later I was a daddy again to two little more than six pounds each baby boys.
Corbett and Daniel Northman.
Or – more aptly – CJ and DJ.
Because not only had we decided to stick with the unintentional alphabetized naming of our boys – only the first one had been intentionally conceived anyway – but because we knew they would be the last – I was getting a vasectomy in a few weeks – we also decided we would stick with tradition in picking their middle names.
James, just like their brothers.
As much as I still liked the idea of seeing if the curse could survive long enough to give us six sons, like her godfather had predicted on our wedding day, Sookie wasn’t having any part of it.
But she was right.
Four was enough.
Veteran’s Day three years later…
“You and your freaky healing abilities!” she yelled. “I can’t believe you did this to me again!
“You weren’t complaining about my ability to heal when I got staked by a piece of rebar,” I laughingly reminded her.
When she’d been acting weird seven and a half months earlier, neither one of us had seen the signs.
Probably because neither one of us even thought about the possibility of her becoming pregnant again.
But she was.
And that was how we found out my body had spontaneously healed from when I’d had my vasectomy.
But seeing she wasn’t seeing the humor in the situation, I smirked with my shrugged, “Hey, at least it’s only one this time.”
CJ and DJ would be three in a little over a month, but they showed no signs of giving up on the terrible twos until the very last moment.
And maybe not even then.
We were keeping our fingers crossed though.
AJ and Bobby – we both nixed the idea of calling him BJ for obvious reasons – were the complete opposites of each other personality wise. But you couldn’t pry them apart with a crowbar and were close enough that they acted like twins, even though there was a ten month age difference in between them.
AJ had just started kindergarten a couple of months earlier, but he was the good one, so Sookie’s load hadn’t been lightened with him gone all day.
If anything, without him there to help her keep the others in line, her load had been added onto.
So I did feel a little guilty for putting yet another baby on her already full docket, but it wasn’t my fault.
I blamed the curse.
And I knew she did too when we went for the first ultrasound and no sooner had they asked if we wanted to know what the sex was, when we both blurted out, “It’s a boy.”
But at least now the boy had a name.
Long live the Northman tradition.
Father’s Day eight years later…
“Higher Daddy! Higher!”
We’d made it for five long years before karma had reared its ugly head again. Sookie had decided to take matters into her own hands by getting her tubes tied not long after EJ had been born.
And yet still, we were each taught the hard way that you couldn’t fight fate, when I still managed to get her pregnant.
All of our friends and family thought it was a riot, but having five boys aged ten through five, that was the sum total of our daily life.
As in riot gear was often needed.
Not a riot, as in funny ha-ha.
It turned out my body wasn’t the only one that could spontaneously heal itself, but Sookie just blamed the amount of me that had been in her over the years for infecting her with those same properties.
And she had taken the drastic course of electing to have a partial hysterectomy by having her uterus removed, after the last one was born.
She’d told me it was either a hysterectomy or a hysterical baby mama.
Hysterical as in a psyche ward would be her new home.
Not hysterical as in funny ha-ha.
But having removed ‘the oven’ no more baby Northmans could be cooked.
Because even she had to finally concede that she couldn’t keep her hands off of me.
Of course, ten years later and five boys in, we knew what we were doing by the time the sixth one rolled around.
I could diaper a baby and make a bottle with my eyes closed.
I’d even done it with my eyes closed on many a long night.
When they’d done the ultrasound and we were told that the baby wasn’t being cooperative enough for us to find out the sex, we’d just waved the guy off because really…
Long live the curse.
We’d even joked that we should name it Fucked, since that’s what we were; that’s what we’d done to bring about our sixth kid; and the letter ‘F’ came after the letter ‘E’.
Fucked it was.
We just hadn’t decided which F name we would actually be putting on the birth certificate, having run out of juice by that point, in trying to come up with yet another name.
However, I obviously hadn’t run out of another kind of juice, which was how she had ended up pregnant again.
They always said that fate was funny thing.
Not so much.
Because nothing had prepared me for when the last one had been born. I’d been excited, of course. I loved all of my little terrors and I thought it would be no different with the last one.
Boy was I wrong.
Because it wasn’t a boy.
It was a girl.
My blasé been-there-done-that-got-the-stained-t-shirt-to-prove-it façade crumbled the moment I laid my tear filled eyes on her.
And I wasn’t the only one who had been gobsmacked by the news.
Even the doctor, who had delivered all of our kids, had sounded shocked when he’d made the announcement.
It was a Christmas miracle.
It just so happened to occur on Friday, June the 13th.
Unlike the rest of the boys, she hadn’t been born on a holiday and even though some viewed Friday the 13th as an unlucky day, I knew the exact opposite to be true.
Nobody could look into those baby blue eyes and feel anything but fortunate.
“Higher, Daddy!” she squealed again, soaring through the air on the swing I’d been pushing her on, and taking my heart with her.
The curse might have been broken with her birth, but the intent behind it held true.
I had been truly blessed.
I had five sons – A through E – and one Felicity to prove it.
Felicity James Northman.
Because even though the curse had been broken, some things still held true.
Long live the Northman tradition.