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Fatherhood

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Chapter One: Hospital

 

Scout stared at his hands while his legs bounced on the balls of his feet. Bouncing, always bouncing, especially when he got nervous. He tried not to listen to the groans of labor--Molly’s labor--from a little bit down the hall. He couldn’t do anything about it.

 

For the first time in his life, he didn’t really have any idea what to do. Most of the problems he encountered could be solved by beating someone up, and if not that, running away. But this was bigger than that. Much bigger. He didn’t want to hurt anybody, and he couldn’t run away. He just couldn’t. He wasn’t like his dad.

 

He flinched at a particularly loud shout,sitting up straight on the cold bench in the cold hospital hallway. Jesus, did women normally scream out loud during birth? He’d have to ask his Ma, but he didn’t think so. It took everything in him not to leap up and run into Molly’s room, hold her hand, tell her everything would be okay. But he knew if he did her parents would just kick him out again, and he didn’t want to start a fight, not when Molly already had this to deal with.

 

He wasn’t even sure if Molly would want to see him--they’d grown pretty distant ever since her pregnancy test had come up positive. They hadn’t abandoned each other, not with a baby on the way, but he could tell that they weren’t in love anymore. Not the passionate, spitfire love that had gotten them into this mess. But Scout still loved her anyways.

 

With nothing else to do, he laid his head in his hands and bounced and kicked and moved to an imaginary beat to distract himself. All he could think about was the fact that he was going to be a dad. Molly had been in labor for three hours already.

 

What was he thinking? He could barely take care of himself, let alone a child. Molly’s parents had wanted her to have the baby, and Scout had to admit, he did too, but he could tell she wasn’t looking forward to raising a kid. Would she turn around and do the same thing his dad had done when he’d been born? He had the feeling that she might. It was a small comfort that her parents couldn’t make her give the baby up, since she was twenty-five.

 

Another hour passed and she’d been quiet for a while, but then the groaning started up again, quiet but so loud in the empty hall. Scout had a feeling that the labor was almost done. He wasn’t sure why; the air just felt electric. But maybe it was just him. Alone in the hallway, no one to talk to, no idea how it was going, he felt all tense and coiled up like a spring ready to snap. But another hour passed, and another. The six hour mark. It was one in the morning. Scout downed a coffee. And another, and another.

 

At one forty-five, yelling and cheering erupted from her room, and Scout, who had nodded off momentarily, awoke with a start. He couldn’t make out the words, but it sounded like Molly and her parents were cooing--over a child.

 

He shot up, fast as lightning, and had just reached the doorway when a nurse opened the door and stepped out.

 

“Oh!” She said in surprise. “Mr. Walsh?”

 

“Yeah. Can--can I go in?”

 

The nurse smiled. “The Kellys said it’s alright for you to come in now. I was just stepping out to grab you, funnily enough.”

 

“Ha, yeah.” His throat was dry, and his mind blank. He stepped past the nurse and into the hospital room, where Molly lay, clutching a bundle of blankets. Her parents were on her left, making faces and goofy noises at the baby, who was crying. Scout couldn’t tell if they were trying to get it to calm down, or if they were just being stupid.

 

Molly looked bone-tired. Her eyes were unfocused and red, and her dark skin was ashy. Scout stepped up to her bedside, laying a hand on her tangled, sweaty hair.

 

“Hey, babe.” He whispered. “You good?” At his words, her parents grimaced at him, before turning their attention back to the baby, but Scout ignored them.

 

Molly leaned into his touch, nodding slowly. “Yeah. M’just tired.” She murmured, smiling down at the child in her arms. Scout took a deep breath, swallowing his fears, and followed her gaze. In the bundle of towels lay a little wrinkled thing, bright red from the process of its birth. Its face was scrunched up as it cried, which Scout had heard was normal for a newborn, so he wasn’t too worried. The baby’s skin, light brown, was a few shades darker than his own and a few shades lighter than it’s mother’s.

 

He reached out a tentative hand and laid it upon his child’s head, and it’s screaming quieted down a bit. It opened its eye and gazed at him, cooing in discomfort. Brown eyes, like Molly.

 

“Isn’t she beautiful?” Molly murmured, kissing her daughter’s forehead.

 

“She? It’s a she?” Scout asked in awe, maintaining eye contact with his kid. “That--that’s wonderful, Molly. I just--wow.” He was at a loss for words. A first for him.

 

“I know we were going to name her ‘Dolly’ if she turned out a girl, but I just don’t know, Jeremy. She doesn’t look much like a Dolly, you know?”

 

Scout nodded. Suddenly, a name popped into his head--and he just knew it was hers. It reminded him of what his Ma used to say about his own name; she was gonna name him Liam, but then she saw him--and he was a Jeremy.

 

“Hey, babe, don’t she kinda look like a Beatrix?”

 

“I think Dolly is a pretty name.” Said Mr. Kelly, halfheartedly, as if he had to be contrary.

 

“Or maybe Samantha.” Mrs. Kelly chimed in. That was her name.

 

Molly was silent for a minute, looking at her daughter for a long while. Finally, she spoke. “Yeah. She’s a Beatrix if I ever saw one.”