Peter rolled over and sighed, snuggling up closer to his wife. His eyes slipped open to darkness, but he had long ago accepted his blindness and no longer woke up panicked.
His fingers stroked the smooth flesh of his wife’s stomach, and then slid down, feeling the gentle curve that had begun to form around and below her navel. He smiled pushing in slightly – and was rewarded with a slight flutter under his fingertips.
His smile grew and he planted a kiss on her bare shoulder.
Kayla stirred at her husband’s touch. “Uhm. Morning, love.”
“Morning, beautiful. Junior’s awake too, I felt.”
“Great, another morning person. I’ll soon be surrounded by them.”
“She says,” he quipped, “not noticing she has now joined their ranks…”
“Not by choice,” she reminded him. “You don’t really want to get up so early, do you?”
“M-m,” he agreed, nuzzling closer to her. “Wanna stay here awhile…”
“And sleep,” she finished for him, eyes already closing.
“No,” he whispered, kissing the top of her ear and tracing it, turning the posts that held open the new piercing in her earlobe.
“And play with my ears,” she jested.
“Among other things,” he whispered, sliding her hand down her neck, her shoulder and her back … then around to her front, bringing it to a halt on the gentle swell of her bosom.
“Well, when you put it that way,” Kayla murmured. She turned to face him, twining her arms around his neck, and reaching to kiss him. “Feel free.”
And with a wicked smile on his face, he proceeded to do just that.
Until a knock sounded on their door. “Breakfast!” Davy yelled.
Peter rested his head on her forehead and swore in Spanish. “A broken clock has better timing than he does…”
“Agreed,” Kayla sighed. “I just wish he hadn’t mentioned food.”
Peter rolled off her and laid a hand on her stomach, where the baby was practicing gymnastics. “He hungry or are you?”
“He is.” Kayla frowned. “What makes you think it’s a boy?”
He rubbed the sensitive skin just below her navel. “You’re carryin’ him low. Girls ride higher.”
“And where did you get this little piece of knowledge?”
“I’m the oldest of four,” he said simply, getting out of bed and pulling on a pair of jeans so old they were nearly white.
Kayla followed suit, reaching for the huge robe she’d filched from his side of the closet. “Let’s go see if Junior’s momma can face the sight of food today.”
“You did fine yesterday,” Peter said, skimming his fingers over his shirts, seemingly searching for one certain one. “You only threw up once.”
“That was more than enough,” she countered. “Hope he didn’t make eggs,” she grumbled as she headed for Peter. “Which one are you hunting for?”
“The black Nehru you got me.” He sighed. “Here are the Nehrus… Kay, there’s gotta be some way for me to tell colours….”
She picked out the black one and handed it to him. “We’ll work on it after breakfast,” she promised.
He pulled it over his head and zipped it up, finger combing his hair to some semblance of normal. “You get dressed too,” he said. “You’re not wearing my robe again today.”
“Because that’s all you’ve worn for the last four days. Please get dressed, Amorita. For me?”
“Pick, pick, pick.” She grudgingly took out jeans and a clean shirt. “This robe is comfortable! I don’t know why it matters if I don’t get dressed.”
“Because I love you, Amorita, and I want to show you off.” This with a teasing grin. “And because you need to look your best sometimes … even if your husband can’t see you.”
Kayla made a face at him. Holding up the jeans, she gave them a dubious look. “It’ll be a miracle if I can zip these up.”
“Well, why don’t you wear the maternity clothes Alice bought you?”
“Because they made me look fat!” Kayla cried. “I’m not that big yet!”
“Then here.” Peter moved to his drawer and pulled out one of his belts. “Cinch this around your waist.”
Kayla did as he recommended. The results were serviceable, if not the height of fashion. “And here she is, modeling the latest in the ‘ragamuffin look’, Kayla Tork!” she announced.
“Let me see,” Peter said, fingers already reaching.
She submitted to his inspection, laughing when he touched a ticklish spot. “Do I pass?”
Peter shook his head, grinning. “I still love your pairing of a miniskirt with a pair of pants!”
“Miniskirts are draughty!”
He took her in his arms. “And your pairing of them with pants… well, I think it’s a unique and beautiful compromise.”
“So much for your sense of style!” Kayla quipped. “Let’s get some breakfast while it’s still hot!”
Breakfast turned out to be waffles. Plain waffles, not the blueberry ones Peter had given Davy and Micky the recipe for once he’d gone blind.
Kayla poked at her waffle. “No blueberries?”
“Out,” Davy informed her. “Of blueberries and of cocoa.”
“I smell a shopping trip in the very near future,” Peter said around a mouthful of waffle as he picked up his juice.
“You got some money hidden away we don’t know about?” Micky asked. “Cause the kitty is nearly empty.”
“We’ve a gig tonight, right?” Peter asked. “That’ll help. Half to the savings as usual, rest to groceries and gas.”
“And to utilities,” Kayla added. “I never realised how much Babbitt spent on the water bill.”
“Well, if Davy wouldn’t take forever in the showers…”
“HEY!” Davy cut Peter off indignantly. “I do not take that long!”
“Twenty-eight minutes!” the other three chorused.
Kayla laughed at Davy’s confused look. “Every morning, twenty-eight minutes on the nose. We could set a clock by you!”
“And just how d’ye know this?” Davy asked.
“I can hear you,” Peter said, grinning. “Blindness seems to raise a person’s sense of hearing.”
“Give it up, babe,” Micky said. “We’ve got you dead to rights!”
Kayla finished the last of her waffle, pleased to see that it seemed to be intending to stay in her stomach. “Just cut down a little, huh? The budget would appreciate it.”
“Oh, all right,” he grudgingly agreed. “How you doin’ this morning, love?”
“So far, so good,” Kayla answered. “No rush trips to the bathroom yet.”
Peter reached over and hugged her. “Good,” he whispered, then into her ear, “Je t’ame.”
“Love you back,” she whispered, stealing a quick kiss.
Davy gave Micky a pained look. “We knew it would come to this, living with a married couple… open cuddling. Bleah.”
“Jealous, Davy?” Micky ducked as Davy swatted at him. “Just checking!”
Davy moved suddenly from the table, cursing under his breath.
“What was that about?” Peter asked. “Is he still sore because he’s struck out for three whole weeks?”
Micky shrugged. “Must be. He’ll get over it. You know he doesn’t begrudge you two your closeness.”
“I know…” Peter sighed, remembering that a little over a year ago such closeness would not have been possible.
Kayla gave him a slight shake. “No looking back, remember?”
“Recuerdo, Amorita…. I remember,” he whispered, smiling slightly and recovering quickly from what he jokingly termed his “language lapse”.
“Good.” Kayla rose and began gathering the dirty dishes.
Peter intercepted her, following the sound of dishes clinking together. He leaned against her and for a moment, forgot everything else. The whole universe contracted to his wife and his unborn child.
Kayla finally pushed him gently away. “Get on with you,” she ordered. “Play me some music to wash dishes by!”
Peter moved to the bandstand and began to play a song on the keyboards. The beat was catchy and uptempo.
Kayla finished the few dishes in record time, washing and wiping to the beat. Finishing up, she drained the sink, draping the wet dishcloth on the edge of the sink to dry. “That’s nice,” she commented. “I haven’t heard that before, have I?”
“Nope. Wrote it as I played it.”
“What’s it called?”
After thinking for a moment, he said softly, “Carlisle Wheeling. It’s the music to that song you sang me last night.”
“Carlisle Wheeling?” Kayla looked puzzled. “I guess I don’t get the connection.”
“You said you were thinking last night about wheeling through Carlisle, Texas and then you sang me this song…”
She thought about that for a moment. “I like it.”
“You just thought up the music as you played?”
Peter nodded, moving from the keyboards. “You like?”
“Very much.” Kayla reached for the twelve-string. “Show it to me. I want to play it.”
With that, Peter moved back to the keyboard and played it slow and easy so she could get the sound in her head.
They ran through the song three times, and by the third time Kayla had the chords down. “It’s really beautiful, Peter.”
“Now put your words to it.” He started it again and she began to sing. After a few minutes, the ending words filled the Pad.
“So forgive me, my dear, if I seem preoccupied… if the razor’s edge of youth-filled love has gone… but we’re both a little older, our relationship has grown… not just in how it’s shaped, but how it’s shown….” And they played the last notes together, ending it softly.
“Beautiful music, Peter,” Kayla sighed happily.
“Beautiful words, Michaela,” he sighed back, beaming once more.
Kayla looked in the mirror as the others packed up the instruments for the gig. Smoothing her shirt over her slightly rounded tummy, she made a face at her reflection. “They just got used to the Monkees having a girl in the band,” she called out to Peter. “What are they going to think when I’m as big as a house?”
“They’ll think ‘Hey! Her husband really loves her to give her a baby’,” Peter said, smiling as he came into the bedroom.
“All right, what happens when my gut gets in the way of my guitar?”
Peter came over to her. He reached from behind her and took her wrists. “Place them like you play now.” She did and then he moved her arms to the right. “You play it like I wear my belt buckle. Out of the way.”
“You got an answer for everything, Shotgun?”
“Sí, Amorita,” he whispered, nibbling her neck. “Peter the Brain, recuerde?”
“I remember.” She tilted her head to give him better access to the tender area. “Is everything ready?”
“Sure is,” He purred, kissing there and letting his tongue draw patters around the raised birthmark on the side of her neck. “All but my shirt, they tell me.”
Kayla couldn’t be bothered to open her eyes. “Shirt?” she murmured. “What shirt?”
“I’m still in the black Nehru… I need to change to a navy 8-button one….” he whispered, kissing directly on the birthmark as if he could see it.
“Let me go and I’ll find it for you,” she said.
One last kiss and he released her, stepping backward just a step, his breathing ragged with desire.
Kayla rummaged through the closet, pulling out the navy shirt. “Heads up, Shotgun,” she called, tossing it directly at him.
“What – HEY!” he screeched as the shirt hit him in the face. “Kay, no fair! I can’t see it comin’!”
Kayla laughed. “Got your mind off your troubles, didn’t it?”
“Mm.” He grunted noncommittally as he pulled off the Nehru and shrugged on the 8-button one, buttoning it expertly. “C’mere.” He reached out his arms.
Kayla eyed him suspiciously. “Why?”
“Wanna hold you…” he said. “Just for a minute.”
She obediently went to him. “Okay, I’m here…”
He wrapped his arms around her and crushed her to him, inhaling the scent of strawberries in her hair. “I love you, Amorita.”
Kayla buried her nose at the base of his throat, breathing his unique scent. “I love you, Shotgun.”
They held each other for a few more moments, and then he kissed the top of her head and released her. “We’d better get going.”
“I know,” Kayla sighed. Reaching for his hand, she led the way into the living room, where Micky and Davy were packing up the last of the odds and ends.
“You two ready to go?” Micky asked, picking up his sticks.
“Yeah,” Peter said, fingers skimming the bandstand, searching for his bass and banjo cases.
“Let’s go, then.” Kayla picked up the six-string, the only thing Peter would allow her to carry lately – mostly because she insisted that NOBODY else was going to carry her precious instrument.
Peter found his two cases and carried them in one hand. Over his shoulder he draped the long strap of the case that held the 12-string. And he kept his left hand free to guide himself. “Ready.”
The gig was going well. The crowd was dancing, which led to them wanting refreshments, which led to the management being very happy. The first set was almost over when Kayla felt the twinge low in her abdomen. A frown crossed her features, but she kept playing as Micky sang.
Then the music ended and the crowd went wild. Davy automatically stepped back so Peter could cross the stage and take his wife’s hand as they bowed.
“What a ride!” Peter laughed backstage. “We sound great tonight!”
“It’s groovy!” Micky was nearly vibrating with excitement. “Wasn’t it, Kay?”
Kayla answered distractedly. “Yeah, sure, Micky. Groovy.”
“What’s the matter?” Peter asked, moving and taking her hand again.
“Nothing, she answered. “I’m just a little tired, I guess.
Peter hugged her, one hand going to cover the baby…. And he felt the next small contraction as it hit her.
“Kayla…” He whispered. “What was that?”
“I don’t know.” Her hand covered Peter’s, pressing it into her belly. “I felt a twinge…”
Peter nodded. “Micky, get the keys. Drive us to Mercy!”
“Peter, I don’t need to go to the hospital,” she protested. “Just let me go home and rest…”
Peter shook his head. “Kay, you know I’ll do most anything you say – but not this time. You are going to Mercy and that’s that.”
Another twinge hit, and Kayla relented. “Fine. I’ll go. Davy, will you tell the manager what’s going on?”
“Gotcha. I’ll take a cab and meet you there.”
Mercy General was only a fifteen minute drive away, but it seemed like hours to Kayla. By the time they reached the emergency entrance, the pains had intensified, moving to her back, and she was crying out in agony when they struck.
“Kayla,” Peter said gently. “Kay, listen to me…” He swallowed. “I’m no doctor…but I-I-I think you may b-b-be losin’ the baby…”
“Don’t say that!” Kayla said fiercely. “I can’t lose this baby! I won’t!”
The doctors swept her away from her blinded husband and he screamed for her as the doors slammed shut. The activity swirled around her, and then she heard the words, “Okay, people, this lady is having this baby now!”
Kayla sobbed through the pains, “NO! It’s too soon!”
“Lady, your body is saying otherwise! You may only be four months, but this kid is coming!”
“PETER!” she screamed. The nurses tried to calm her, but she repeatedly begged them to find him. “I need my husband!”
Micky suddenly appeared in the doorway with Peter. “Hey!” The doctor yelled. “You can’t be in here!”
“Like hell,” Micky snarled, his normally cheerful face dark and forbidding. “These two need each other more than you’ll ever understand.” He released Peter, who moved unerringly to his wife’s side.
Taking her hand, he whispered, “I’m here, Honey….calm down, Honey, I’m here….”
She clutched his hand with a strength that belied its slenderness. “Oh Peter… it hurts so much…”
“Amazing…” the doctor whispered. “She’s still suffering…but the panic’s completely gone…”
“I know… I heard…” Peter whispered. “Was I right, Amorita?”
She reached out to pull him closer. “Yes… I’m so sorry, love…”
“It’s not your fault… babies don’t miscarry unless something’s wrong with them...” In French now: “*Nothing you did, my love…nothing at all.*”
Kayla was listening, but the words didn’t seem to reach her. “If I’d taken better care of myself,” she mumbled. “Listened to you….”
“Stop it,” he breathed forcefully. “Not your—“ he was cut off by the most intense contraction she’d had yet.
Kayla screamed. She’d never felt anything like this before, like a part of her was being ripped away. She tried to call for Peter, but all that came out was a low, agonised moan.
“I see a head!” the doctor yelled. “Golly, it’s tiny….”
Kayla gave one final push, feeling the tiny life slip from her body. Exhausted, she drooped back, too weak to hold her head up.
And Peter was supporting her even as he cried, “Doctor?”
“It’s a boy,” the doctor said with a small voice. “With a…. a malformed chest… poor thing’s heart couldn’t develop…”
Kayla struggled up to support herself on her elbows. “Let me see,” she gasped.
The doctor held up the very tiny body. Kayla saw the birth defect for herself.
There was no way this child could have lived.
Through the tears, she studied the tiny face; heart breaking at the thought that their child would never know their love, never grow into the beautiful human being he would have been. “He’s beautiful, Peter.”
“What does he look like?” he whispered.
“He looks like both of us,” she whispered. “My colouring, but he’s got your features, I can tell…”
Peter reached out. “Let me see.”
Kayla took Peter’s hand, guiding it to the baby’s still face. Here,” she said for his ears only. “See our child.”
“You…” the doctor said. “You aren’t allowed to touch the baby until we get it cleaned up…”
“I want to see my child,” Peter said coldly.
“Now look…” he began.
“He’s blind!” Kayla hissed. “Would you deny him his only chance to see his child because of your rules?”
“Blind?” the doctor gasped. “I’m sorry… I didn’t realise…” He laid the tiny form into Kayla’s hands. “See your child…take all the time you need.” Then he left them alone.
Peter shook his head. “In a way, I’m kind’a flattered… at least I know I can maneuver well…” He traced the baby’s nose and features. “He has your cheekbones…and mouth…What colour was his hair?”
“Black, like mine.” Kayla hugged the baby to her breast, tears beginning anew. “Why did this happen, Peter? We wanted him so much….”
“Sometimes things just happen,” Peter said, his own eyes moist now. “My mom miscarried my twin brother.”
“I-I never knew…”
“Nobody does. It’s one of the many secrets in Peter’s Mysterious Past… He tried to smile, but his fingers kept caressing the tiny skull. “I want to give him a name…and bury him properly.”
“We never even had a chance to discuss names,” Kayla sighed. “I thought we had time for all that.”
“So did I,” Peter whispered.
“Is there a name you want?” she asked.
‘Yes…but I worried you’d say no.”
“Why would I say no?”
“Because it was…” he sighed. “Robert Michael.”
Kayla thought for a long moment. “I think it’s somehow very right,” she finally said. “Robert Michael Tork – part of both of us.”
“Then that’s his name.” He lowered his head and let the tears come.
A half an hour later, a nurse came in and told them the hospital was planning a memorial service for the tiny child who’d stolen the nurse’s hearts.
Peter stroked Kayla’s hair as the nurse took the tiny body and let her sit up. Then she left them alone and returned minutes later with a basin of warm water and a cloth before leaving once more.
“Help me,” Kayla said, taking his hands. Together, they bathed their son, four hands conveying the love of two hearts, performing what was almost a ritual. Drying the tiny body, they dressed him in a shirt the nurse had brought, and swaddled him snugly in a soft blanket.
Cleaned of the muck of birth, his tiny features were clear. Peter’s bone structure, Kayla’s rosebud mouth, wisps of hair black as ebony. He would have been beautiful.
“The nurse said something about a memorial service?” Kayla said, gazing at the lifeless face.
Peter nodded. “I think they’re planning one…that…” and he went into Spanish for the invective “…seems to be the exception to the rule. The nurses are sweet, even if the doctor wasn’t.” His thumb was gently caressing the tiny skull.
“Have the others been told?”
Peter closed his eyes. “No.” He sighed and stood, feeling for the doorway.
All four were congregated in the room, not speaking, when a new nurse came in. “I’m sorry,” she said. “Visiting hours are over… you gentlemen will have to go home.”
“No!” Kayla said frantically, tightening her grip on Peter’s hand. “Don’t leave!”
Micky and Davy slid out of the room, Davy taking the nurse’s arm. “We need to talk about Peter,” he said dryly as the door closed.
“I may have to… Peter said, his face mirroring her franticness.
“You can’t,” Kayla protested. “You know what happens when we’re separated…”
“Yeah, but they may not leave us a choice…” Peter said, sitting back down on the bed. “I’ll… I’ll listen to the TV or something. I’ll be okay.”
“Peter, you know that doesn’t work. You’re as tired as I am. You need to sleep!”
“So do you,” he pointed out. “But if they separate us, you know that will be impossible.” He trailed a finger along her cheek. “I’ll be fine… believe that, Amorita.”
“I’ll try, Shotgun,” she sighed in frustration. “Damn their rules!”
“Agreed.” He kissed her gently as the door opened and the kindly nurse re-entered.
“We’ll put the boy in the morgue for the night,” she said gently, removing the tiny body. “I’m sorry, sir….visiting hours are over…”
“Please…” Peter said, taking Kayla’s hand. “Let me stay.”
She paused, biting her lip, looking at Kayla with confused eyes.
“Please, ma’am… I want him here…”
“Please!” Kayla whispered.
“This is highly irregular,” was all the nurse said as she left. When she returned, two orderlies flanked her, one on each side.
Peter noted Kayla’s stiffening. “What is it?” he asked.
“She brought orderlies,” Kayla choked. “I trusted you!” she cried to the nurse.
“You can’t stay here,” the nurse said. “In the obstetrics wing, three floors up, is a room for parents with seriously ill children to stay the night. You’d be more comfortable there, since they want you to stay for observation. The orderlies are here, one to push you in the wheelchair, one to guide your husband to the room.”
Kayla buried her face in her hands, muffling the sobs which were tearing through her now. “I’m sorry… I thought you were…”
The nurse brushed her hair from hr face as she sat on the bed. “You thought I was here to throw him out. Mrs. Tork, I’ve miscarried two little ones. I know the pain. And to take your husband away now would be the ultimate cruelty. We’re just gonna move you a few floors up where you can both get some sleep.”
Kayla grasped the gentle hand, squeezing it tightly. “Thank you.”
The nurse hugged her, and then the orderlies moved the pair to the small bedroom.
Peter moved through it, orienting himself slowly. “Are you okay?” he asked.
Settling herself gingerly on the bed, Kayla lay back with a sigh. “No,” she said bluntly.
Peter moved to her side. “You feel empty.”
“Empty. Sad. Angry. About two dozen other things.”
“Hurt. Small. Vulnerable. Betrayed.” Peter lay a hand on her shoulder. “Most of all, pain.”
She sniffed, gazing at his dear face. “What about you?”
“Pain. Anger. Worry.” He brushed her hair away. “I lost too, Querida. I lost a son…and I nearly lost his mother. They wouldn’t let me near you for so long…”
“Why did this happen? We wanted him so much…”
“He was growing wrong,” Peter said, braiding her long hair by touch. “It just….happens sometimes.”
She sighed. “You would have been a wonderful father.”
“I’ll get another chance,” he said, kissing her neck.
“I sure hope so…”
CONTINUE ON TO PART TWO