Denny drove us to the restaurant, where we met Peyton and Henry for dinner. They were already sitting down in a booth when we arrived. The waitress showed us to our seats, and Ellery stood there, looking at the booth.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“There’s no way I’m going to fit in there.” She frowned.
Ellery was big, and she looked like she was going to give birth any day.
“Elle, I’m sorry. I should have requested a table. I don’t want you squishing my goddaughter.” Peyton laughed.
I called the waitress over and told her we needed a table. She accommodated us immediately. We sat down, and I asked Ellery if she was okay. She looked at me as we both started laughing about her not being able to fit in the booth.
“I better lose all this weight,” she said.
“We’ll go to the gym together, and I’ll hire you a personal trainer,” I said.
Peyton grabbed Henry’s hand and told us they had an announcement. She held out her left hand and showed off her exquisite engagement ring. Ellery wanted to jump up and hug her, but she couldn’t.
“Peyton, it’s gorgeous! Congratulations!” she exclaimed.
I got up from my seat, kissed Peyton on the cheek, and shook Henry’s hand. “Congratulations to both of you, and may you have a wonderful life together,” I toasted as we all held up our glasses of wine, with the exception of Ellery; she had water. Ellery turned to me and gave me a look as if she was trying to figure something out.
“You knew, didn’t you?” she asked.
“You knew Henry was going to ask Peyton to marry him, and you didn’t tell me.” She glared.
I smiled and that was enough to let her know that I knew. “Of course I knew. Who do you think went with him to pick out the ring?” I laughed.
“Wow, Connor, how could you not tell me?”
“Maybe because it was a surprise, and I know you. You would’ve called Peyton and told her about the ring.”
“No, I wouldn’t have,” she said.
“Yes, you would’ve, and then you would’ve told her to act surprised,” I said as I kissed her cheek.
Peyton looked at Ellery. “He’s right; you probably would’ve,” she said.
“I know, I would’ve,” she said as she rolled her eyes.
The waitress brought our meals to the table. I looked over at Ellery, but she wasn’t eating like she normally did. She was picking at her chicken. “You okay, baby?” I asked.
“I’m fine, honey. I’m just not very hungry.” She smiled as she turned to me.
Henry and I talked about sports as Peyton and Ellery threw around some ideas for the wedding. We had a nice dinner, and we were in the company of great friends. I couldn’t ask for a better evening. I ordered us another round of drinks and dessert for everyone. The waitress had been flirting with me and Henry all night. She brought the desserts to the table and brushed up against me with her breasts.
“Excuse me,” Peyton said. “I saw what you just did, and don’t think I haven’t noticed what you’ve been doing all night. That man right there, that you just boob-brushed, is married with a baby on the way, and this man right here is my fiancé. If his wife wasn’t about to give birth, she would have kicked your ass by now. So back off our men, and go find someone who isn’t already taken.” The waitress glared at her and then looked at Ellery.
“Yeah, what she said,” Ellery spat.
The waitress turned and walked away in a huff. Henry took Peyton’s hand and started laughing. Ellery put her hand on my leg under the table and squeezed it. I looked over at her as she stared at me.
“Connor, my water just broke; it’s time,” she said.
Connor stared at me as if he didn’t understand what I’d just told him.
“What did you say?” he asked.
“My water broke, Connor. The baby’s coming. We need to get to the hospital,” I said as slowly as I could.
He jumped up out of his chair and helped me out of mine as he looked at Henry and Peyton.
“Her water broke. It’s time!” he exclaimed.
Peyton quickly got up from her seat and ran over to me, while Henry remained calm.
“OMG! It’s time! Henry, what do we do?” Peyton asked in a panic.
“Everyone relax,” he said. “Ellery, are you having any pain yet?”
“No, not yet.”
“Okay, good. Let’s get in my car, and we’ll get you over to the hospital.” Henry smiled.
Connor put his arm around me as he guided me out of the restaurant. Before we made it to Henry’s car, I abruptly stopped and doubled over in pain.
“HOLY SHIT!” I screamed.
Connor stopped with me and put his hands on my stomach.
“It’s okay, baby. Breathe in and out, like we learned in our class.”
I nodded my head and did what Connor said as the pain started to subside. Henry and Peyton told us to wait while they pulled the car up. When Henry drove up to the curb, Connor opened the door for me, and I slid in the back seat. He shut the door and walked around to the other side. Connor climbed in, sat beside me, and pulled out his phone to call Denny. After he hung up, he reached over and pulled me into him.
“I can’t believe our daughter is coming,” he said as he kissed my head.
I buried my face into Connor’s neck as another contraction started. The pain was unbearable; it was worse than my cancer treatments, and I didn’t think that could be possible. Connor held my hand and kept telling me to breathe. I swore I was going to lose it if he said it one more time. Peyton kept turning around and looking at me from the front seat.
“Are you all right, Elle?”
“Do I look like I’m all right, Peyton?” I said with gritted teeth.
It seemed like it took forever to get to the hospital. Once we arrived at the ER, Henry got a wheelchair, and Connor helped me from the car. I had only had a couple of contractions, and I was already wishing this was over. Connor wheeled me inside, and Henry led us up to the Labor and Delivery unit. Stopping at the unit desk, Henry gave them my name as the clerk showed us to my room. She handed me a cloth gown and said a nurse would be in shortly.
I changed into the cloth gown that was all too familiar to me. Connor helped me as Peyton and Henry stepped out of the room. I could feel another contraction coming, and I bit my bottom lip as tears started to fill my eyes. A nurse walked into the room and looked at me and Connor. It was Nurse Bailey. She looked at me with a smile as she walked over and patted my hand.
“It’s good to see you again, sweetie.” She smiled. She turned and looked at Connor. “Are you still the friend?” she asked.
Connor grinned, as he replied, “No; I’m the husband.”
Nurse Bailey smiled and nodded her head. “Very good. I’m glad to see things worked out for the two of you. I knew they would.”
She turned back to me as she hooked me up to the fetal monitor. “Look at you! You’re having a baby.” She smiled.
I tried to smile back, but another contraction was starting. I bit down on my bottom lip as Connor grabbed my hand. Peyton and Henry walked back into the room, and Peyton rushed to my side.
“I paged your doctor, Ellery, but I haven’t heard anything yet,” Henry said.
“Who’s your doctor, sweetie?” Nurse Bailey asked.
“Dr. Keller!” I yelled through the pain.
“Dr. Keller had a family emergency yesterday and had to leave town for a few days. His partner, Dr. Reed, is taking care of his patients. I’ll go call him,” she said as she patted my hand and left the room.
The contraction ended, and I felt like I could breathe again. Connor sat on the edge of the bed and softly kissed my lips.
“I love you,” he whispered.
“I love you too,” I whispered back.
Henry walked over and explained to us how the fetal monitor worked. He showed us at which point a contraction was starting, when it was at its peak, and when it was ending. Connor looked intrigued as he studied it. Peyton and Henry left the room to grab some coffee and to bring me back some ice chips.
“Can you believe Nurse Bailey is my nurse?”
“No, baby, I can’t believe it. But I’m glad she is.”
“Me too.” I smiled.
“Look at our daughter’s heartbeat,” Connor said as he pointed to the number on the fetal monitor.
I smiled as I looked over at it and another contraction began. I grabbed Connor’s arm and dug my nails into his skin. Did I feel bad? No, the pain of my nails is nothing compared to the pain of childbirth.
“Breathe, baby.” He smiled at me as he stroked my forehead.
Peyton and Henry walked into the room with a cup of ice chips. She took one out and started rubbing it across my lips.
“Maybe this will help you feel better,” she said.
“The only thing that’s going to help me feel better is getting this baby out of me!”
Nurse Bailey walked in and said she needed to examine me. Henry and Peyton stepped out of the room again while Connor sat on the edge of the bed next to me, holding my hand. She explained that she needed to see how much I was dilated. When she finished, she looked at me and pursed her lips.
“Hmm, you’re only dilated to one centimeter. You said your water broke while you were at the restaurant, correct?”
“Yes, I was sitting down at the restaurant when it broke,” I replied.
Nurse Bailey looked directly at Connor. “You didn’t by chance have sex today, did you?”
I looked at Connor, and he looked at me. “This is your fault!” I said.
“My fault? You’re the one who invited me to take a shower with you before we left for the restaurant.”
“Just relax, Ellery. Everything will be fine. I don’t want you to worry,” she said as she walked out of the room.
A few hours passed, and I wasn’t any further along. The contractions were getting worse, and Nurse Bailey stepped out of the room to call Dr. Reed. Henry was keeping a close eye on the fetal monitor, as was Connor.
I was lying on my side, and Connor wiped my forehead with a cool cloth. A contraction had just ended. I let out a deep breath and closed my eyes. I felt Connor kiss me softly on the forehead as he pushed back my hair.
“Get ready, Elle. Here comes another contraction,” he said as he stared at the monitor.
“Why do you have to tell me, Connor?!” I yelled.
“I want you to be prepared so you can start your breathing. I don’t want you to be caught off-guard.”
Every bit of me wanted to kill him at that moment. The pain with each contraction was intensifying, and I felt like my body was trying to rip itself in two. As always, he was right and another contraction came.
“Breathe, Elle. Come on, baby; deep breaths.”
“Connor, I think you better lay off; she’s getting pissed,” Peyton said.
I started screaming in pain. I promised myself that I wasn’t going to be one of those women, but at that moment, I didn’t care. I didn’t care who heard me, and I didn’t care what they thought. Connor was still telling me to breathe, and that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
“Tell me to breathe one more time, and I swear I’ll castrate you, Connor Black!” I screamed.
I heard Peyton burst into laughter, and Connor looked at me.
“Wow, Elle. That was uncalled for,” he said.
“No! What’s uncalled for is you making me feel worse than I already do. I don’t want to know when another contraction is coming! I don’t want you to tell me to breathe! I know you’re trying to help me, but all I need from you, babe, is silence.”