Ralph dashed towards the hospital. There wasn’t a chance in the world that he would miss this.
He made his way straight to the reception desk.
“I need to see Carlotta Bloomer,” he got straight to the point.
“Are you a relative?” The receptionist asked apathetically.
Ralph had very little patience for the man. “I’m the plumming father of her child. Where is she?”
Carly eyed the doctor nervously. It would be ok, she tried to tell herself. It wasn’t scary. A baby coming to the world was a beautiful thing…
She was terrified regardless. And where was Ralph?
“Don’t worry, Miss Bloomer,” The doctor smiled reassuringly. “You’re in good hands.”
Let’s hope so, Carly told herself silently as she lied down.
Ralph flew through the corridor. That receptionist took his sweet time, so he eventually gave up and figured he’d figure it out his own. It wasn’t a particularly large hospital, after all.
And then he found her.
“Lottie!” He yelled out. That machine she was in didn’t exactly fill him with confidence. Was this normal?
“I gather you must be the father,” the doctor greeted him calmly while manning the handles. He didn’t seem phased at all. “You’ve come right on time for the main show.”
And with that, the doctor manoeuvred a little crying bundle from the machine and into the cradle.
“Ralph! Look at that!” Carly was weeping with joy. She didn’t take her eyes off the baby for even a split second.
Ralph watched the doctor wash the baby girl and place it into her mother’s arms. It felt surreal. He was a father.
He’d never been so scared in his life. Would he be any good at it? Would he be an awful influence? What if somebody hurt his baby? What if he did?
He realised that from that moment on, he would never stop worrying.
But then he saw how Lottie held her, and how she looked at her, and he couldn’t help but smile.
He was a father. But more importantly, Lottie was his baby’s mother.
His daughter would be just fine, because she had the best mother on the planet.
“Isn’t she beautiful?” Carly asked.
“She really is,” Ralph said, holding back tears of his own. He’d never forget this.
“Thank you for being here, Ralph,” Carly said when she finally put the baby into the cot. She hugged him.
“Are you serious? Where else would I be?” He wrapped her in his arms tightly. “I belong with my girls.”
Vito watched the kid. His kid. Supposedly. What made a kid his? Was it the hair colour? The same cocky smile? He didn’t feel like a father. Just yesterday, he had no clue this person existed. And now he was there.
Was he supposed to love the kid immediately? He had no clue how to feel. He wasn’t sure of anything. He knew it wasn’t love, but he felt… something.
He definitely felt angry about not being able to go through this mental process years ago, when the boy was born.
Alyssa sat down next to him. “The doctor said the baby was born. You have a niece.”
She smiled, as if nothing was wrong.
“Oh, nice of you to mention that I have a niece. Trying to make up for not telling me I had a son?” Vito snapped.
“This is hardly the time and place, Vito,” Alyssa looked around. “Can’t we talk about this later?”
“No! You’ve put this off for way too long,” Vito hissed at her. “Didn’t you think I had the right to know?”
“Oh, you’re gonna make this about you, what a surprise! Unbelievable…” Alyssa shook her head. “There are sick people all around us. Your sister just had a baby. But all you can think about is you, you, you!”
Vito couldn’t believe it. “You’re seriously trying to spin this like I’m the one who’s way out of line here? You’re questioning my timing? Yours is several years late! Actually, scratch that, since if we didn’t run into you at the park, you would have probably never told me!”
He breathed heavily, attempting to calm down.
“I just want to know why, Alyssa? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Why?” Alyssa glared at him. “We hooked up once, and then you never talked to me again. I didn’t exactly have a lot of opportunities to bring it up! You just moved on to the next guy or gal, whatever you were into at the time…”
“You still should have come to me,” Vito said weakly. “I would have talked to you if I knew it was important…”
“Oh please,” she almost laughed. “Did you even notice I dropped out a few months after we messed around? That I never came back to school?”
Vito stared at her blankly.
“Didn’t think so.” Alyssa nodded to herself victoriously.
“I… I’m sorry.” Vito said. “I get it. You thought I wouldn’t care. And why wouldn’t you? I’ve done so many plummy things over the years. But I have changed since high school days. I’m trying to change.”
He drifted away for a moment.
“But Alyssa, trust me, even at my worst, if I had known about the kid, I would have done the right thing.” He studied her expression. “You don’t believe me, do you? Do you really think I wouldn’t want to be in my son’s life?”
Her lips twisted into a crooked smile. Or was it a smirk? “I’m not a big fan of what ifs.” She shrugged. “But hey, if you want to be involved, there’s nothing stopping you now. Aslan is right there.”
His eyes shot back to the kids corner of the waiting room. The boy was still playing.
“I promise I won’t stop you,” Alyssa told him as she stood up, leaving the two of them alone.
Ralph and Carly were still enjoying their moment. Ralph didn’t want to let go. The minute he’d let her out of his arms, things would go back to being fractured and messed up again. Just a minute longer, to pretend they were all a happy family… Whole.
But it had to even eventually. Reluctantly, he let her slip out of his embrace.
“We’ve still not talked about names,” he said, pretending to be causal. “Did you have anything in mind?”
“Yes,” she nodded. “I have actually decided on one, unless you don’t like it of course…”
“I’m sure I’ll love it,” he smiled.
“Well, for starters, I thought her last name should be Forrester.” She almost sounded shy when she said it.
“Really? I thought that wasn’t allowed in the legacy?” Ralph pointed out.
“I can break the rules too.” She winked at him.
Ralph would laugh, if he wasn’t so touched by what she said. “I’d like that very much. But make sure you don’t get in trouble for it.”
Carly burst out laughing. “Have we switched places or what? Don’t worry. She’ll still be a Newcrest heir. Bloomer is just a name. The legacy is about people.”
“I wish I was half as smart as you,” he smiled. “So, what about her first name?”
“I was thinking Hope.”
Carly took a deep breath and softly held onto one of Ralph’s hands. “Remember when I said that sometimes love was not enough?”
Ralph was confused. She was still holding his hand. But why was she bringing this up?
“Well, I still believe that,” Carly continued. “Love isn’t always enough. But if you were to add Hope to the mix…”
She was smiling. And not letting go of his hand.
“The name’s extremely cheesy,” Ralph teased her, “but I like it. Hope it is.”
“Hope it is.” Carly repeated. “Hope Forrester.”
Ralph realised that maybe he was going to cry after all.
Vito sat next to the kid.
“Hey there.” What the plum do you even say to children, he wondered. “So… you like toys, huh?”
Wow, strong start, Vito, he mentally scolded himself.
“Yeah! Do you?” Aslan bounced his feet happily.
“I like taking photos.” Vito told him.
Was he quizzing him now? “Um… you know, it’s nice to capture a beautiful moment forever.”
“I don’t get it.”
Who knew kids were so tough to please?
“I can explain,” Vito tried. “If something really nice is happening around you, don’t you ever want to hold on to that moment forever? With photos, you can.”
“I still don’t get it.”
Maybe he wasn’t particularly bright, Vito sighed.
“I think it’s stupid. If something cool is happening around me, I don’t want to freeze time and stop it. I want it to happen!” The boy informed him. “And why would I want to stick to an old moment? I bet something even cooler will happen next!”
“Well, some memories are worth saving.” Vito said helplessly. “And worth reliving.”
“That sounds boring.” Aslan was getting fidgety. “I can explain. Yesterday I was playing with my toy rocket, and I made a dog out of playdough. And that was awesome. But today I touched a baby that was in a lady’s belly and I got to go to the hospital. That’s even awesomer! Tomorrow will probably be the awesomest, I think.”
The boy shrugged. “So of course I don’t want to freeze the time. Or go back to making a dog out of playdough. I’ve already done that.”
Vito was crushed. A little kid just ripped apart all he believed in. All he’d been trying to save in the past month. Either Aslan was really silly, or really clever. Vito wasn’t sure if he wanted to know the answer.
The boy looked at the despairing man, confused. Did he say something wrong?