John Robinson held a bouquet of flowers and with one hand and a small plush toy on the other. He passed by one room after another before finally reaching the one he was looking for. Room 211.
The door was open and there was a redhead on the hospital bed, breastfeeding a baby in her arms.
Molly. Her name was Molly, John told himself, recalling what his friend told him about his wife.
John knocked on the door before walking in.
Molly tore her eyes off her baby and looked at him, frowning slightly. “Hello. May I help you?”
John introduced himself. “I'm John, a friend of your husband’s from work. Congratulations on the baby.”
Molly’s eyes softened and if John wasn’t mistaken, it grew slightly misty.
“Thank you. It’s kind of you to drop by,” she said softly.
John showed her the flowers, “This is for you,” and then raised the teddy bear. “And this is for your baby girl, or is it a baby boy?”
“A girl,” Molly replied, smiling softly. “You shouldn’t have brought those.”
“It’s no big deal. Your husband felt awful that he couldn’t be here. And I owe him my life so when he asked me to visit you, I agreed.” John had to admit that visiting a fellow soldier’s wife in the hospital was a little weird especially since he didn’t know Mackie long. But the man saved his life, delivering a letter to his wife and kid was the least John could do.
Molly’s eyebrows furrowed and she adjusted her position slightly. “I’m sorry, what did you say? He asked you?”
John nodded, unsure as to why she found that weird. You would think a soldier’s wife would understand. “Yeah. Unfortunately, he was among the Navy Seals chosen to do something heroic at an undisclosed location, so he tasked me with this domestic mission.” John reached for his coat pocket and handed Molly the letter.
Molly reached for it with a free hand and read the name at the back of the envelope. She pressed her lips together and gave John a somewhat tense smile. She handed him back the letter. “I see where you went wrong... John, was it?” John nodded and she continued, her voice a little thicker than it was earlier, “My husband is dead. And my name isn’t Molly.”
John stood there staring at Not-Molly a little dumbstruck. "I beg your pardon?"
“You’re in the wrong hospital room,” Not-Molly said simply.
John felt heat rise to his cheeks. Give him an enemy to shoot at. A bomb to dismantle. A wall to climb. Anything but going in the wrong hospital room of a widow who has just given birth taking about how her husband had sent him on a mission. “I’m so sorry!”
“It’s alright. You must have mixed up our room numbers.”
John buried his face in his hands. “Oh, my God, your husband is dead and I was talking about him like he wasn’t. Ugh, I’m a horrible person.” He brought his hands down in time to catch the woman shake her head amusedly at him.
It was an attempt to make him feel better but John only felt worse. “It’s alright, really,” Not-Molly insisted. “If I were you, I’d go ask for Molly’s room number at the nurses’ station just to avoid making the same mistake.”
“Yeah, I—um—” John couldn’t even find the words to reply all of a sudden. His face felt extremely warm and his brain was probably shutting down. “I should—I'll do that.”
He turned around and was already walking out when Not-Molly called out, “Wait, you forgot this!”
John turned back around. She was pointing at the flowers and the toy on the coffee table.
John, once again, felt like an incompetent human being. He couldn’t just take the gifts back after the blunder he pulled. “No, keep it.”
“I can’t. It's not for me. You should give it to Molly,” Not-Molly said, “She’s going to need those more than I do. I mean, if my husband was away, I’d want those to make him feel closer. Please,” she added.
And John couldn’t refuse, not when she was looking at him with those green pleading eyes and her newborn daughter still attached to her breast.
So, John picked the gifts up again, apologized a second time, and then quickly left the room.
Maureen was surprised to see the man—John—again later that day.
“May I come in?” he asked a little nervously and Maureen couldn’t help but find it amusing at how he was being so careful not to offend her.
“Yes, of course.”
John walked inside, holding another bouquet of flowers and a different plush toy this time, a soft rattle. He raised it a little bit to show her.
“Oh, John, I really didn’t mind that you had to take the previous gifts away. They were meant for another person.”
“But I mind. And these are meant for you this time.” He put the gifts down on the coffee table once more. “Ma’am, please, let me make it up to you. I should’ve been more careful with the room numbers. I made you uncomfortable with my words and I’m so sorry.”
Maureen could see how important it was to him that she accepted his peace offering, so she said, “Thank you. Apology accepted. And my name is Maureen.”
“Maureen,” John repeated. “I’m so sorry for your—"
“If you’re going to say you’re sorry my loss, please don’t. I spent my pregnancy mourning and now that my daughter's born, I kind of want to celebrate life instead.”
John nodded and was about to apologize again when he caught himself, his face turning red.
Maureen seemed to know what he was about to say and chuckled. In an attempt to change the topic, she said, “You want to hold her?” Maureen normally wouldn't just hand Judy off to a stranger but there was something trustworthy about a man who was asked to visit his friend's wife after she had just given birth.
John glanced at the baby who was now sleeping in Maureen’s arms.
“Oh, I couldn’t, I’m practically a stranger.” The fact that he refused made Maureen trust him even more.
“She’s a day old. Everyone here is a stranger to her. Besides, how do we expect her to make friends if we don’t introduce her to people?” She held Judy out gently, and urged John, “Come on. The offer expires in five seconds. Five, four—”
“Okay, okay!” John came forward quickly to accept the child.
“Her name is Judy,” Maureen said.
“You’re cute,” John said to Judy.
“Don’t listen to him, Judy. I’m sure he says that to all the babies.”
“No, I mean it,” John said and then looking down at Judy, he cooed, “Hi, Judy. I’m John.”
Judy slept on, oblivious that she wasn’t in her mother’s arms anymore.
“She likes you,” said Maureen.
“You can’t know that. She’s asleep.”
“I’m her mother. What I say goes.”
John chuckled again.
Maureen clasped her hands in front of her. “So, I’ve been thinking, how come you didn’t know what Molly looked like? Have you never met her before?”
“No, actually,” said John, swaying gently from side to side. "My friend showed me pictures of his wife but I didn’t really memorize every detail of her face. I just remembered she was a redhead.”
John scoffed. “If you call luck a Navy Seal walking into your room and making insensitive comments about your dead husband, then sure.”
Maureen laughed. “It was an honest mistake.”
“One that I would never commit in the battlefield.”
“Well, it’s a good thing this isn’t a battlefield.”
Judy started to stir and John exchanged panic looks with Maureen.
She looked at him, amused. “Don’t tell me you’re scared of a baby. Aren’t you Seals supposed to be tough?”
John moved to give Judy back to Maureen. “I’ll have you know that I love babies. But they’re like ticking time bombs that could go off at any minute. Besides, I don’t want her to wake up to an unfamiliar face. It’d be better if your face was the first thing she saw when she wakes.”
Maureen accepted her daughter. “I wouldn’t say you’re unfamiliar. She’s met you earlier, you know.”
John cocked his head. “That doesn’t count. She wasn’t really looking at me but rather at you.” He stuck his hands in his pocket. “Anyway, visiting hours are almost over. I... I should go. It was nice to meet you both despite the circumstances.”
“You too, John,” Maureen said, smiling. “And thank you.”
John sheepishly waved her thanks away. “Oh, the gifts were nothing.”
Maureen shook her head. “Not for the gifts.”
“Oh. Then what for?”
“For being one of the first strangers Judy gets to meet.”
“Well, I have to say the pleasure is all mine," John said and found that he meant it.