Chapter 21 : Alexa: When Good Days End with Bad Dreams
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"Please, no more," he cries. Then he looks around and realizes where he's been for the past hour. "Oh. Thank God for that."
"Still having those nightmares, Alby," Kieron mocks him in a whiny, baby-like voice with the nickname he heard Lily call him once and decided to keep.
I move to sit next to my brother, smacking across the arm. It's hard enough to surprise him, he even jumps and rubs the spot, but we all know that there is no way I've left a bruise. He has thick skin to cover his thick skull. Okay, I admit I'm still a little pissed with him after everything that happened a few days ago, but still, it's Al I'm defending right now.
"Leave him alone," I scold him. "Lily's being going on and on about weddings and christenings and dresses for every occasion. It's bringing back traumatic memories."
Al responds with a groan, falling back into the couch, this time in the middle. When he was ten, Lily, with the help of big brother James, had Al try out her outfits as revenge for him ruining her favorite doll. He mostly got over it... until she starts stuff like this just to remind him.
It's not funny... but the picture the Potters have of poor Al is adorable.
I go back to Nicky, pushing Kieron back into the couch so that I don't have to lean forward, and hand him the writing pad I'd been making notes on. "What do you think, Nick? It's simple like you want, just a party here, but is also elegant and fancy. I can get them while I'm out if you approve, but I'm doing it today or you do it yourself because I hurt, so I won't be out for long."
Nicky let's go of his quill and puts it on top of his knee with the article he's currently writing, reading through the notes properly. His smile gets a little wider each time. It's nothing really special; a few congratulatory banners that I'll have specialized for them, food I'll have Louis' friend Frankie make when Louis begs him for me, I'll also talk to George about a fireworks show. He's good at them.
"This is perfect, Lexi." He passes it back to me. "You're amazing. Have you ever thought about doing this for a living? Events planning?"
My eyes widen and my mouth parts and I get up, only pausing when I feel a sharp kick. Oh, Baby does not like me getting up too fast. I rub my stomach with one hand, brushing off the guys' worries with the other, and continue my way back to Al. I'm so excited, I accidentally sit on him, just catching his hair and missing the rest of his head.
"Ow!" he moans.
"Sorry. Get up." I nudge him until he eventually, and grudgingly, sits beside me. "So, what do you think? Me planning people's parties and stuff? I'll be awesome, don't you think? I've already being planning things since... forever."
"I thought it was just a hobby. Lexi, if I thought you'd consider it as a career, I'd have told you months ago," he mumbles sleepily, his head resting on my shoulder.
"Why is he so tired?" Nicky asks, pointing at him.
Albus taps my knee. "She had me up late painting the nursery and getting it ready for when we get the baby stuff. Then when I finally got to bed, she kicked me off and on for a full half an hour, then she slept on top of me. Needless to say, 'tired' is an understatement."
"I was going to make him come with me today, but I'm okay with him staying at home and dragging Craig in to help if I get anything," I let them know. See, I can be a nice person. I'm a good girlfriend to Al.
"Craig? That's the neighbor with the adorable smile, right?" Kieron asks curiously. Nicky turns on my brother, his eye-brows raised and his arms folded. "I may have glanced. And you can say nothing; I see you glance all the time."
"Really? And all this time I thought I was being subtle," he answers sarcastically.
"Oh, baby, I don't care if you look," Kieron smiles, going back to his law textbook. I hold up a finger to Al; any minute now, just wait. "As long as you know that I'll break something if you touch."
There it is.
I feel like I should be at least a little worried for Nicky's safety and, well, his life in general when it comes to my brother, I do like him after all. But they've been friends since they were eleven and together since they were fourteen, so I imagine Nicky can take care of himself by now. He doesn't need his soon-to-be sister-in-law protecting him from the big bad wolf... who knows how to create a storm, lightening and everything. He's put up with it for this long without my help. Even so, I don't appreciate the glare directed at me when I laugh at Kieron's comment. The shrug I give him apparently makes it worse.
At least I know when to stop... Or leave.
"Go home, Al, you'll sleep better there," I tell him gently, a small nudge in that direction more than an outright demand, I think. Because they definitely won't let him sleep if he stays here. I can see it in their eyes. I pull him up with me, walking him to the floo room, and kiss him quickly before letting him go first. "I'll see you later."
"You won't be out long." He makes me promise; I cross my heart and everything. And I mean it; I do not want to be out for as long as I need to be. Being pregnant is exhausting. "And I know Darcy and Megan will be there, but you'll call me if you need me?"
"Yes. Now go. And remember, my dad is coming over for the mail and stuff after work."
"I remember," he mutters, stepping into the fireplace. He calls out our address and manages to return my wave before disappearing completely in the bright green flames.
As soon as he's gone, I step in and call out Diagon Alley. Floo is an unpredictable way to travel, I think, at least for some; there's always a chance of landing the wrong way, tripping over your own feet and falling flat on your face. It's happened to me a fair few times. But I've gotten much better, enough to not be worried today. Plus it's safer than Apparating. Pregnant women are discouraged from traveling this way, no matter how far along you are - there's dangers of splinching causing miscarriages, or hurting the baby in any way. The risks are too high. Side-along is safer, but is still only recommended when necessary.
I land in one of the alley's fireplaces safely and step out into the cobbled street. It's gone lunch and it's Saturday, so it's really busy and I start to wish I'd come out sooner. Thankfully, my friends are right there, waiting for me. They each take an arm and lead the way.
"So, where to first, Lex?" Darcy asks, unusually excited about baby shopping. Although, she's a shopping addict, will take what she can get, so I don't think I should be all that surprised.
"You're a strange girl," Megan tells her.
"We're just browsing here," I laugh. We're bumped into a few times as we walk, more so when we try to stop and browse the windows, but with me in the middle I'm okay and they mostly try to swerve past and miss us. I'm grateful for that.
The longer we spend in the alley, the more I realize that I probably shouldn't have come here at all. I chose to come here first just to get it out of the way in case I found something I liked, but really wanting to look in one of the baby stores in London. There's not much here for babies; sure, there's robes and toys and stuff, but cribs and prams? Bottles and dummies? None of that's here.
After about an hour, we head to the wall. My time here is not completely wasted, though; in my bag is the most adorable set of robes from Madam Malkins for the 'welcome to the world' party that Darcy joked about and I agreed to have, just because I was bored and got to plan something, and a baby t-shirt from the Quidditch store that says 'No. 1 fan' that Al will hate. I did walk out thinking that someone, probably Harry, will buy one, if they haven't already, but oh well, Baby can have two.
My feet start to ache when we get to the wall and I think about us getting the bus into the city center when I'm poked on the shoulder.
"Healer Moore," I say, surprised, and I smile, introducing her quickly to my friends, or more like rejogging memories if they met at Christmas. "How are you?"
"I think I should be the one asking you that," she points out. "I'm good. How are you?"
"A little achy, if I'm honest, and kinda hungry actually," I muse, then shrug. "I think a look in a baby shop and food will be it before I go home."
"But there's so much to buy," Darcy pouts. Megan rubs her arm in soothing circles, trying to hide her amusement because damn anyone who tries to stop this girl from shopping. "Fine, I'll continue another day and who knows what I'll get for this kid without adult supervision?"
"We don't even trust what she buys herself without adult supervision," I remind Megan worryingly. "Remember the cardboard cutout of that actor she just had to have?"
She nods and shudders. "And those shoes."
"I'm right here, you know!" she snaps without venom. She knows we're only joking. She might have even joined in if Healer Moore hadn't started to laugh.
"You remind me somewhat of my best friend, she's a lot of fun. Especially if alcohol is involved," she smiles. "Are you coming through the wall?"
I nod and we follow her when it opens. My friends continue to chat about Darcy's outrageous shopping buys when they notice me move away to walk in step with my healer, or maybe now my ex-healer since I'm not all that comfortable with the thought of my dad's potential girlfriend delivering my baby. It's the estate agent and the house all over again.
"What brings you here?" I ask her curiously once we step outside of the old pub. Apart from the odd times I've seen her with Ginny, I've never seen Healer Moore outside of the hospital.
"Just shopping," she shrugs. "It was a nice surprise seeing you out, I thought I'd ask about how you are. Do mind if I walk with you?"
She sounds sincere, honest, about her intentions, but it's her eyes that have me inclined to not believe her. They flicker, only keeping actual contact with me occasionally, and her body is too stiff to be casual. I've seen this before; everyone acts different, but overall, there are similarities, such as stance and eye contact. They might has well have a big flashing sign on their heads, saying 'Theo's got to me and he thinks his daughter's an idiot'.
"Dad told you to come, didn't he?" I ask knowingly.
She visibly relaxes. "Yes. He wants us to get to know each other outside of the hospital, to get along, you know, before anything happens. Your opinion means a lot to him, which is okay. I was actually going shopping, though, I need things for my kids; I said I would if I saw you. And I did, so I kind of had to keep my promise."
"Your dad's a nosy bastard," Megan smirks. Yeah, well, she wouldn't be if he'd heard and she'd never say that to his face. Not that he'd do anything, they just have more respect for him when he's around. I, on the other hand, would call him a nosy bastard to his face.
"He is," I agree with her, turning back to Healer Moore. "And it's okay; I understand why he wants that. So, we're going to get the bus into town. Did you drive?"
"Good." Megan and Darcy suddenly pop up on either side of her. "Because we have healer/patient/baby questions we'd like to ask you."
My look is nothing but sympathetic.
Curiosity sated by the time we get off the bus, at least for now, my friends stick to casual conversation on the walk into the shop and disappear to look around, coming back every now and again to show me all of the things that they think are adorable and I should buy, but essentially leaving me alone with Healer Moore.
"Your dad said you were finishing the nursery," she starts the conversation, a little nervously. It's odd to hear from her.
"Al finished it last night," I reply, not helping the smile. He did a great job. "It's lovely. Now that the walls are cream and not dark blue, it looks a lot brighter. Now we just need everything else."
"Hence the baby shopping."
"Yeah. I wanted Al to come with me, but he's exhausted after last night and says that he trusts me. Plus he's made friends with our neighbor, Craig, and I think he wants Al to watch this football game with him, in our house."
"So his wife can't nag him?" she asks with a laugh. "For my ex-husband, it was his friend's house if he couldn't go to the pub."
"Can I ask what happened between you?" I say hesitantly, more because it's not my place than feeling as nervous as she did a few minutes ago. But she's with my dad, who's been through enough. "You don't speak about him in a bad way."
Healer Moore shrugs. "We'd been together since we were kids, you know. Got married, had kids of our own. And we loved each other, still do in a way, but not like before. We just grew apart. We're trying the whole 'we can still be friends' bit and I think it's working; we still get along and talk, mostly about the kids. He wants to meet your dad, to know what kind of man will be around our kids, but he already knows enough from me to not push the issue."
"He sounds nice," I tell her sincerely. "I'm glad my dad might have found something with you, but I'm still sorry about your relationship."
"It's alright. Even the kids are starting to get used to the idea. Well, my daughter anyway, my son is too young to understand," she adds.
"Now that they know they won't lose their daddy," I remember, then I wince as she gives me a look. "Kieron snuck in to get some of this things while you were telling my dad, he overheard. It reminded me of him and me with our mum."
"Your dad says he's invited her to his engagement party."
I grimace. "Don't remind me. Hey, what do you think of this?"
It's a pram, not too big and feels light, easy to push around. It looks like a basket with a hood; the baby would be facing my direction when I pushed the pram, so I'd be able to see and hear him or her without needing to stop and move around. The fabric is dark blue and has a striped pattern on it if you look close enough. The handle has grips on it for my hands and there's a sort of tray along it, complete with a bottle holder. There's also a small basket underneath for toys and the baby's bag and stuff. I like it.
"It's nice," she says. "Certainly seems to have everything you'd need. Not too pricey either," she adds, holding up the price tag.
I let it go and continuing looking, remembering the exact place the pram is in just in case I go back for it. I'm keeping my options open, though. And I'm glad I did, because then I find one that I love even more. It's all black, nothing special in terms of looks, but that's not what catches my attention. As it is, the part where the baby lies is mostly flat, so he or she would be elevated just a little, and it looks kind of like a basket-type, like the other, and the handle is at the front, so I'd see the baby as we walked. But the bottom can come apart and the seat can come up or down, plus the handle can be moved - when the baby is older, but still young enough to need a pram, I can still use this one, I just need to raise the seat. Maybe change the handle, so it'd be on the other side, behind the baby. It's a little bit more expensive than the first, but I have more than enough money and for the first time, I don't think I've ever been truly thankful for that. I can't imagine not being able to buy my baby things.
It doesn't take long for one of the shop's staff finds her way to us and the pram is soon on a list to be paid for and asked to be delivered. I wait to pay because she comes with us to the cribs; I want to have everything together before I pay. My friends find us then and help to pick. I choose one that matches the nursery; it's a light wood, plain and modest and big enough for the baby to use it for a while.
After that, it's just little things - essentials, like bottles, nappies, dummies and neutral pajamas (I'll be clothes later). I look at things that apparently help with breastfeeding, which I haven't even thought about before. The last thing I buy is a stuffed green dragon from the toy section. Uncle Draco would be proud.
Now it's time to go home. Nicky's decorating will have to wait.
"Shopping is so much fun," Darcy sighs contentedly, carrying her own shopping bags. Mine will all be delivered to me, so she's the only one who came out of that shop with bags. She won't tell me what she got.
"You always say that," I mutter, not exactly listening because I'm focused on my stomach. I rub gently, like I've been doing for a while now; I kept feeling kicks and mild pains, now I think it's getting worse. Then it really does feel worse. "Oh, ow, ow, ow."
Healer Moore catches my arms and keeps me steady while my friends crowd me.
"Lexi, are you okay?" Megan asks, worried.
"It hurts," I whisper. "What's wrong?"
"I think I have an idea, but I'm going to get you to St. Mungo's and have another healer confirm it," Healer Moore tells me comfortingly, taking me somewhere out of the crowds to Apparate me to the hospital, telling me about the healer. "He's new, but he's very good. You'll like him."
She takes the hands of my friends as well, Apparating us all straight into the children's ward - healer privileges, I guess. She takes me into a room, asking for a Rodriguez (I swear I've heard that name before), and gets me settled on the bed. The healer who comes in, who I assume is Rodrigues before he introduces himself, is every bit of Spanish loveliness as his last name suggests. He's tall, dark and handsome, with short but thick black hair and warm eyes. He tells me to breathe while he examines me and the baby, speaking to me reassuringly. I focus on his accent. His English is clear and fluent, but his accent is still strong.
He's doing a very good job of keeping my mind occupied; no wonder Healer Moore said I'd like him. He's calming, he's sweet.
Al is so not going to like it.
Healer Rodriguez gives me something and the pains are already fading by the time he goes to leave. "I'll be back in a minute, just rest," he says gently, nodding to Healer Moore before walking out of the door.
"Where's he going?" I ask her.
"He's just going to get your records and something for you to eat and drink, now that you're calm," she answers. "What do you think of him?"
"I think I'm in love," Megan murmurs with a sigh, still watching the door for when he comes back.
"You were right, I do like him," I say. "He knew exactly what to do, what to say, to keep me calm and okay. I would definitely trust him when the time comes."
"So, the fact that he's a guy doesn't matter?"
I shake my head, no. "But why does my opinion matter?"
"We've been short-staffed for a while, so we've been looking for someone anyway. But now that I'm with your dad and you've been worried about it being uncomfortable having your dad's girlfriend deliver your baby, I thought you would like a new healer. I'll still be around, he's new and I'm his boss, but Healer Rodriguez was happy to be yours. All you have to do is say yes."
"Yes. She says yes," Megan says before I can. I just nod instead.
"Yes to what?" Darcy asks, coming back inside, Healer Rodriguez following with a bottle of water and a cookie. He's already perfect; I love cookies.
I gesture to him. "This is officially my new healer. Where did you go?"
"I called the others and your dad, who called your brother; they're on their way," she says, looking a little guilty. Of course she is, they'll just be worried.
I shrug it off, it's not like I wasn't going to have them crowding me and asking what's wrong eventually, especially from Al. "So, what was wrong, Healer?" I ask instead.
"Braxton Hicks," he tells me. "It's nothing to worry about, it's your body preparing for labor. Which I'm apparently now a part of."
"You've done... that before, right?"
He gives me an incredulous look, looks down at his scrubs, then, very sarcastically, shakes his head. "Nope, so very new, so very inexperienced..."
He trails off, but his eyes are still warm and his smile is comforting. I'm oddly reassured. "I like you. It's so much better when healers aren't stiff and dull, I think. I'd get annoyed with them."
"Good, because it was either me or Healer Salt and, well," he turns to Healer Moore. "I don't think he likes me very much."
"He doesn't like anybody," she tells us. "He mostly works with the older children. He wouldn't handle labor well, he'd just scare them."
I finish my cookie, nodding and continuing the conversation, ignoring this Salt guy. I get the feeling they're talking to keep me calm after the pains before; Healer Moore has probably been told more about me by my dad. That's what he does when something is wrong, he talks to me. Just like Al did in the garden after our families found out about the pregnancy.
"How are you liking England?" Darcy asks.
"It's alright. I come here a lot with my grandfather, so it's not really new," Healer Rodriguez replies. "And I kind of have family here. Well, I say family; I'm staying with a man who became a family friend when I was ten. Even living in a different country, I think he looked after me more than my own family did. If he could babysit me when I was ten, he should have no problem babysitting me sixteen years later."
"If he's anything like my dad, he'll be helping you find a new place quickly," I say with a nod, remembering his words that day we ate pizza, the same day I found out that I was pregnant. God, it feels like so long ago.
He laughs along with what was only me partly joking. "Yeah, that sounds like him."
The door opens then, almost slamming into the wall because it was pushed so wide. Al moves to my side, his face a bright red, probably from running, Chris and Emmett move to ask Darcy and Megan what happened and my dad stays by the door. "What the hell happened?!" he yells. "You were okay before. Weren't you?"
"Mostly," I whisper, hoping he doesn't hear it. Oh, but he does and I fear for his sanity... and quite possibly his life.
"I'm going to get him some water," Healer Rodriguez says slowly, looking ready to make him a patient here at the hospital.
"A wise decision. You can tell me what's happened on the way." My dad goes with him, followed by Healer Moore, so that it's just me and my friends.
"It was Braxton Hicks, Al, our new healer said there's nothing to worry about. He did a scan like Healer Moore did in our appointments, kept muttering in Spanish, but I think it's about the baby. My Spanish isn't very good. I'd have to guess that he was just checking things off to himself, since he didn't say anything about that."
Al breathes a huge sigh of relief. "The false contractions thing. That's normal. Darcy freaked me out, making it sound bad."
"Sorry, but in my defence, I had no idea what was happening and just thought that you should know."
"It's alright, Darcy." I whack Al's arm; he does not get to suddenly be the calm one now that he knows what it is. "That's normal? You don't get to say that so casually! Should we kick you in the groin and see how you feel?"
"Please don't," he whispers.
He's spared an answer thanks to Healer Rodriguez coming back with his water. I introduce them, inform Al that he'll be my new healer and try to remember where I've heard his last name before while Al asks him labor-type questions I've chosen not to hear. Not that I need to; he's asking questions about what he can do at the time. Because the bastard doesn't have to do the hard part. You know, the giving birth to a human being part.
I need another cookie.
"My overall advice is to just be there, be supportive," he's told. Healer Rodriguez looks at me. "Annie wants to know if you want to see the nursery, if you're ready to see what happens between birth and taking your baby home."
"Yes," Megan and Darcy say together. Honestly, they're more excited than I am, more than they should be. Maybe one of them should give birth instead.
They push Al out of the way - in a nice way, of course - and help me off the bed, leading me away with the healer before any of the guys can say anything.
"So, the nursery," I hear Chris say, Emmett's groan quickly following.
We find my dad with H-Annie (well, she's not my healer now), standing in front of a window. "There are a few women around here, ready to give brith, but the doors are shut and the soundproof charms are up, so you're fine," she says, looking at Emmett. "This is the nursery. This is where your baby will be looked after while you rest. We make sure they're healthy and that they're in the Ministry records."
The room isn't full; there are a number of infants in cot-like beds, most sleeping, and the two medi-witches and the healer in there are more than enough to look after them. I just about hear Darcy's aww, can imagine that she's probably thinking about her future with Ewan again. She won't be joining me in motherhood any time soon, but I do know that she does want kids someday. It helps to think about Darcy as a mum, because then I don't have to think of me - this is all so real. My baby will be here soon, in this room. End of March; that's not so far away now.
"I don't like it here, it's scary."
"Oh, grow up, McQueen, they're harmless babies," Megan laughs.
"How happy are you to find a guy who hates kids?" Al asks with grin. Hates kids? Hugo's mean.
"It does make me feel better," Em admits.
"Well, I should go. It's not my day off, I have patients to see." Healer Rodriguez salutes me. "I'll see you soon, Alexa."
"What's the other room?" Chris asks, pointing to a door we can just about see.
"That's where premature and sick babies go, babies who need care. It's where your dad would have gone if this ward had been built back then."
"It's where Jason Shepherd was for three and a half months." The Minister told me.
"He was very sick, but he's doing so much better now." It only takes a nod from my dad for her to wrap her arm around my shoulder, not as a healer but as a friend, maybe even family one day. "Don't worry about it, Lexi. Stress isn't good for you or the baby. He, or she, is smaller than he should be, we know, and it may lead to minor problems in the beginning, but everything else is going well. The moment you feel that something might be wrong, you know where I am and I'll make sure you have Healer Rodriguez's information, too."
"I'm okay," I assure them. "It's just a little scary, that's all."
"It'll be fine," Al says. "Come on, let's go home. You can tell me what you bought today."
We all end up in front of my house, Apparating and walking up to it because Al remembered that he had been watching football with Craig before he came here; he'd left Craig in the house. They say good bye at the door, though, so it's just me and Al who go in.
Craig stops at the doorway to the living room, not looking pissed by the fact that he was left alone at least. "Hey. I was going to go when Al left, but I didn't have a key to lock up, so decided to stay if that's alright. Good thing, too, because a delivery came for you. I signed for them for you. Did you, like, pay extra for them to come today?" he asks, a little shocked, and points in the living room. "Because Al told me that you'd gone shopping today and I never get my deliveries on the same day."
"I ordered before a certain time," I tell him, excited. "Everything's here. Now we can finish the nursery."
"Now?" Al mutters sadly. I nod, making the face I use when I want something. He knows no one can say no. "Be a good neighbor, Craig. I need help with these boxes."
"But," he stammers. "But I don't want to."
"He's okay, Craig. He just wants to finish it quickly, so he can worry about me. Because I can't help."
"Damn you," he curses. It wasn't meant to be a guilt trip. Oh, well. He grabs a box. "How are you anyway? Al says you were in the hospital."
"Braxton Hicks. I'm alright." I fall carefully onto the couch and lie on my side.
"I remember the first time that happened with Maggie," he grimaces. "I freaked out; she told me to quit acting like a baby because she had things to do. This was back when we lived near to her parents." His grimace changes, like he's in physical pain. "They hate me.
"Then they're silly. Thank you for helping."
I don't hear them come back; I fall straight asleep, too tired from today to even take my coat off.
I do end up in my bed eventually. Craig helped take the baby stuff up to the nursery, unpacked the crib and helped put it together before he was called away. Al left everything else, made something quick to eat and woke me up. He tells me as we eat. Then I go to bed and I'm back asleep, only to be woken up again, shaking and with tears down my cheeks.
Al is awake and sits with me instantly, his arm arounds my shoulders as he gently asks wants wrong.
"Bad dream," I whisper. "It was just a horrible mix of what happened today with my own imagination of the room for sick babies. I'll be okay."
We lie back down and he keeps his arms around me, letting me rest my head on his chest. "It was just a dream, everything's fine."
I know that, or I hope that. I do know that it's a dream I never want to have again.
A/N: New chapter, new character. I hope y'all like him. You may even already know of him... ;)
Not long now... I hope you enjoy this chapter. Please let me know what you think.
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