-1"Ssh, ssh," Kenny said soothed, lifting his month old daughter into his arms. "It's okay, you're just a little wet."
Tossing the dirty one into the diaper genie, he snagged a clean one off of the stack. Pausing he watched the squirming infant with a smile, and knew she was going to be a stunner when she was older. Even, he thought, with her face red from screaming she's beautiful. With flame red hair like her mother. Faltering slightly, he lifted a happier and dry Lindsay into his arms, and made his way downstairs.
"Uncle Kenny? I need some help," Nate called, "I can't find my homework."
"Hold on, I'm coming," Kenny called back. "Uh, check in your back pack again."
"Oh, I got it," Nate called back. "Thanks!"
"Daddy," Emily wailed, grabbing onto his leg, "I'm hungry!"
"In a minute," Kenny replied, trying to stay patient. "Go find your shoes Em. We gotta get going. Samantha!"
"Coming, coming," she grumbled. "I don't see what the hurry is anyway. It's just school. And it's too cold to go outside."
Kenny gritted his teeth. "I know you have a test today, so you're going. We'll even run through a drive in to get you guys some breakfast, if we go now."
"Fine," Samantha mumbled, pulling her bulky sweater over her head. "Lets just go."
"You guys got everything?" Kenny asked, as he hustled them out the front door. "Let's get going."
"You look exhausted," Skeeter commented that same morning. "How is everything going at home?"
Kenny shrugged. "It's okay. Kind of hectic in the morning, but we're getting used to it. Four kids . . . Lindsay's got a set of lungs on her. You can hear her for miles."
"She's cute though. Linda took one look at her and started in on wanting another baby."
"She's welcome to borrow her anytime. Between driving Nate to soccer, Em to preschool, Lindsay to daycare, and Samantha everywhere . . . Is this what it's going to be like? Then the homework . . . it never ends."
"What about a nanny or something? Just having an extra person around might help a bit. You can't do it all, believe me it's impossible."
"Yeah . . . It's an option. Not yet though, there is time."
Skeeter paused before replying. "It's been rough for a while . . . How, is everybody holding up?"
Samantha ducked her head, as she slunked through the hallway. Ignoring the stares and chuckles of the other kids, she made her way to her math class. I hate them, she thought, I hate them all. Jordan told everybody, and they won't leave me alone. Why do they have to keep staring at me?
"Hey gorgeous," a leering voice called from behind her. "Want to go out sometime?"
Samantha gritted her teeth, and tried to ignore him. Stalking down the hall, she took a steadying breath. They don't know what really happened, she thought, just what he told them. No one will believe me. I can't tell. My Mom is dead, my Dad's in jail . . . and no one here will believe me. They don't know me.
"Come on beautiful, lets party."
Trying not to cry, she slid into her seat to wait for class to start.
Kenny paused at Skeeter's question, and couldn't come up with an answer right away. How is everybody? I wish I knew, he thought, thinking back to the day that Lindsay was born.
***One Month Ago***
"Kenny," Jimmy called, as he came back into the waiting room in a daze. "What happened?"
Kenny shook his head. "I don't know . . . It's a girl, she's beautiful. So small though . . . she's almost a month early. Max . . . something's wrong, she's bleeding and unconscious. Shit, there was so much blood."
Jimmy swallowed. "Hey, she'll be okay. Max is pretty tough. She has everything to live for."
"Yeah," he agreed, not sure what to believe. "I mean it's Max. She has to be okay."
"Excuse me," a nurse called from the doorway. "Mr. Lacos? Would you like to meet your daughter?"
"What? Yeah, of course," Kenny replied. "She's so small . . . she's okay?"
"We're going to keep her in observation, but so far everything is normal," she replied. "If you would come with me?"
"Go," Jimmy cut in. "I'll wait here. Max would want you to."
Kenny nodded, and followed her down to the nursery as his thoughts drifted around. Come back to me, Honey, he thought, as the nurse handed him his newborn daughter. She's beautiful, look at that hair. We'll have to come up with a name for you, but we'll wait for your Mom for that. She already loves you so much, and she hasn't even met you yet. And you'll love her too.
"Suction," Jill snapped. "Right there, go! Hold on, Max, hold on."
"BP is falling," Dr. Meadows. "Get the paddles ready people!"
Come on, Jill prayed, as they frantically tried to repair the damage. Don't do this Max, there are too many people that need you out there.
"She's perfect," Kenny said rejoining Jimmy in the waiting room/ "Anything yet?"
"Not yet," Jimmy replied, seeing the dark circles under his friend's eyes, as Jill walked wearily into the room. "Jill?"
"The hemorrhaging was severe," she began, "And she lost a lot of blood before we stopped it, during and after giving birth. We gave her a transfusion, and tried to stabilize her blood pressure."
"Jill?" Kenny asked, trying not to be scared by the tone of her voice. "She pulled through, right?"
"Her heart stopped," Jill continued. "But we got it going again. She's stable now, but the next 24 hours are critical."
Kenny let out a deep breath that he didn't know that he was holding. "Stable? Thank you."
"There's more. She had a lot of internal damage, that we patched up the best we could. We need to give that time to heal before we know the full extent of it," Jill added. "But don't concern yourself, or her with that now. They'll be time after the 24 hours are up."
"Is she sleeping? Can I go see her?"
"Everybody is holding up fine," Kenny answered, "Samantha has been a little moody and stuff, but . . . it hasn't been easy.
Skeeter nodded. "If you guys ever need anything, I'm around. Linda loves being around babies, maybe it'll convince her that we don't need anymore."
Kenny smiled despite his mood. "Lindsay is rambunctious."
***One Month Ago***
"Hey you," Kenny said softly, seeing Max stir into consciousness. "How you feeling?"
"Ssh. You don't have to say anything, Honey. You scared me there for awhile, but you had a beautiful girl. She's perfect, Max, so beautiful. She looks like you."
He smoothed her hair off of her face. "Ssh. Just rest. I know Jill wants to take a look at you. Linda and Laurie are watching the kids, so don't worry about them."
"I had the baby?"
"You don't remember? Yeah you did, wait until you see her, Honey."
"Hmm . . . I feel so strange, like I'm not really here. Am I?"
"You're here, and you don't know how happy that makes me. You've gotta stop scaring me like that," Kenny replied softly, as he held her right hand in his. "You were amazing."
"I don't want to interrupt," Jill called from the doorway. "Do you mind if I come in? I see that my patient is awake."
"She is," Kenny said with a grin, feeling eternally grateful that she was. Hell, if she wants to go back to work, I won't have a problem with that now. Just as long as she's okay.
"How are you?" Jill asked in way of greeting, taking in her groggy patient. "I'm glad to see that you're awake. Are you in any pain?"
"No . . . what happened? I had the baby? It's too soon."
"She is fine, Max. I promise you. I'll bring her in when you're more awake, but I want to concentrate on you now. And there are some things I need to go over with you," Jill said in her doctor tone. "If you're up to it, I want to do some scans and check some stitching."
She nodded slightly. "Okay."
She felt Kenny squeeze her hand, as Jill made her way to the other side of the bed. "Okay, squeeze mine now. Max? Did you hear me?"
"I . . . can't. Jill? Why can't I?"
Jill pulled a pen out of her pocket, and trailed it down her leg. "How about that? Anything?"
"No . . . what's wrong?"
"Jill?" Kenny asked, trying to keep the fear out of his voice, as he noted his wife's limp arm on the other side of the bed. "What's going on? Why can't she feel that side of her body?"
Jill swallowed. "I want to run some scans before I say anything for sure. Sit tight, don't panic."
"Samantha! Hey Samantha," Zach Brock called, as she ducked around the corner. "Wait up?"
"What?" she snapped. "Why can't you all just leave me alone?"
"I, uh, just wanted to say hi. You seemed kind of upset this morning, with Jordan and Bobby this morning."
"I'm sure you know what they're saying, so why don't you just leave me alone? You're a sophomore, why would you want to be seen with me. The freshman slut?"
"Jordan and those guys . . . they're jerks. Don't let them get to you that way."
"What do you know?"
"Nothing! I know what Jordan has been saying, that's all! About you too!"
"Just leave me alone! I don't want to talk about it!"
***One Month Ago***
"Don't touch me!," Samantha cried, rolling away from Jordan as her fist connected with his chin. "Leave me alone!"
"Tease! Whore! Get back here."
"No," she cried, kicking him in the groin again, and sprinted up the stairs. "Don't you ever come near me again! I hate you!"
"You bitch! You'll regret this!"
"Okay, okay," Zach said backing off slowly. "Um, if you want to sometime, we don't know each other very well, but I'd listen."
"Your Aunt and Uncle are like family to me . . . so that makes you family too. And family sticks together. Let me be your friend."
Samantha swallowed slowly. "I can't tell anyone . . . you won't believe me. I don't want to cause anymore trouble."
"I guess things are hard at home and stuff," Zach replied, pausing as the bell rang. "With everything that happened."
"Yeah, I uh have to go to class," Samantha stumbled. "Bye."
***One Month Ago***
"You had a stroke," Jill verified a few hours later, trying to stay professional after she read the scans. "A minor one, but there are some lingering effects."
"A stroke?" Max gasped. "A stroke? How? I mean those only happen to old people . . .Kenny?"
He squeezed her hand, and tried to process what he had just heard. "Jill? A stroke? How?"
"A minor stroke," Jill repeated quietly,. "And there is a strong chance that the paralysis is just temporary. With some physical therapy you'll be as good as new."
Max just shook her head. "I couldn't of had a stroke. This is just some strange nightmare? Just let me wake up now."
"It's not unheard of at your age, although it isn't a common occurrence. You lost a lot of blood, Max, and your body and you have been under a tremendous amount of stress lately. It all contributed, but with the right therapy and time you should be fine," Jill replied, seeing the fear in her friend's eyes.
"Nothing is definite, and you know that," Jill countered. "But I want to start rehabilitation as soon as possible, probably the day after tomorrow. I want you to give your body some time to rest before hand. And I want to give you time to meet your daughter."
"That's not fair," Max argued, as a nurse knocked on the door. "Oh."
"She's probably hungry," Jill added, "I'll leave you three alone for awhile. If you need anything page me."
"You okay?" Kenny asked, as he lifted their new daughter into his arms. "You heard her, you're going to fine."
"That isn't what she said. Probably? I can't feel half of my body Kenny. I can't move it. I can't even hold her."
"Hey, Honey," he said gently sitting on the edge of the bed, as he noted her pained expression. "We'll do it together, okay? And you will be able to. Soon."
Max tried to gulp back the sob rising in her throat, but couldn't. "Why?"
He didn't say anything, as he wrapped his arm around her. Pulling her tightly against his side, he whispered. "I don't know why . . . Ssh, don't cry, Honey. We'll figure this out."
She shook her head, and looked back up at him. "Uh, huh. She's beautiful . . . Yesterday is such a blur, I don't remember it."
I do, he thought, trying not to visualize all of the blood he saw yesterday. "Yeah she is because she looks like you. Look at all of that hair."
Max smiled despite her fears. "She has your eyes."
Kenny kissed the top of her head. "You have any names in mind?"
"She's coming home soon?" Skeeter asked. "I know she's been in rehab for the last month, but she'll be home for good soon?"
Kenny nodded. "Yeah. She's going crazy in there. Always an over achiever, and hell I miss her. The kids miss her. We go and see her all of the time, but it's not the same. I don't care if she's limping around . . . she hates using a cane or a walker in front of me and the kids."
"It's just temporary."
"Yeah, we both know that. Damn stubborn pride of hers. Friday tentatively."
***One Month Ago***
Kenny paused in the door of the physical therapy wing of the hospital before saying anything. Looking at his wife clad in sweat pants and a t-shirt, with her hair up off of her face. At least she got some feeling back in her arm, he thought, and I hope it's a sign of things to come. She's too stubborn to roll over and die. Sighing internally, he thought back to the night a week before.
"Aunt Maxie had a stroke? Why?" Samantha demanded, coming out of her pouting. "Is she going to die too?"
"What's a stroke?" Nate asked.
"It's, well, it's kind of hard to explain," he answered. "When she had your cousin, she lost a lot of blood, and it's making it difficult for her to do some stuff. She's going to be in the hospital for awhile, but we can go visit her and stuff."
"Mr. Lacos," a nurse said, cutting into his thoughts. "You can go and see your wife now. We're done for the day."
"Thanks," he said, pushing the door open. "Hi, Honey."
"You look like you're making progress."
"Yeah. I can move my foot."
"You can't rush it. You know that."
Kenny joined her carefully on the bench. "Hey. Max, talk to me here. What's going on?"
"What's going on? What do you think? Look at me for god's sake."
He cupped her face in his hands. "I am damn it. You know what I see? The same incredible woman I fell for 12 years ago."
"Bullshit. I'm a damn cripple."
"You're not a cripple," Kenny argued, trying to keep his temper in check. "Don't even say that. There are a hell of a lot of people a lot worse of then you. It's temporary, Max. What would Caro think of you giving up so easily?"
"Don't what? Yeah, you're hurting. No shit. You're not the only one. The kids are confused, and they need to see you. They don't understand what's going on, and they can't lose anyone else right now. Stop being so selfish, and let them."
"I'm being selfish? What are they going to think when they see me like this? How is that going to effect them?"
"Stop. They need you Max. Samantha and Nate . . . you've been their family a lot longer then me. They need to know that you're okay. Em needs her Mom. Lindsay needs to get to know her family. Hell, I need you. Stop pushing us away."
"Pushing you away? Why would you even want to be near me? I can't feel it when you touch me . . . what if we can never . . . What if I can never hold them again? Everything thing I took for granted . . . What if it doesn't come back?"
Kenny caught the hitch in her voice. "We'll find a way. It's only been a week, Honey."
Max looked forlornly out the window of her hospital room, as she leaned against the walker. God I hate this thing, she thought, wishing she could fling it across the room. Although it's great that I can actually walk again. Releasing her grip slightly, she applied more pressure on her left leg. Swaying slightly, she steadied herself again, as she heard someone come in the room behind her.
"What do you think you're doing?" Jill asked. "You're supposed to be resting. You had a full day of therapy, and too much exertion can make it worse. You've made tremendous progress, and you don't want to hinder it."
"Okay, okay. I just thought I'd give it a try. This thing makes me feel about 80 years old."
"You probably won't need it for much longer," Jill countered. "Plus you get to go home on Friday."
Max nodded. "Yeah . . . which is great, but I'm kinda nervous. Everything is so . . . just so easy here. There's this routine everyday. Home is chaotic, I love it, but it is. I don't know if I can handle it like this."
"Have you two thought about getting some help? At least until you're back to a hundred percent?"
Max shrugged, knowing the both of them were very skittish about leaving the kids with someone else. "Not really. I don't know how Kenny has been doing it by himself though."
Jill smiled. "I never pictured him as the Mister Mom type."
"I don't know how he'll feel about being called that. He's a great Dad, but I know he's been spread kind of thin these days. I miss them though, seeing them here isn't the same. And since Lindsay went home, it's just weird being here."
"Well you're well on your way out of here," Jill said. "And when you are I expect you to take it slowly. Your therapists know what is best for you."
"So they keep telling me."
"Sit," Jill demanded, pointing toward the bed, "You're moving around pretty well."
"I'm trying. My arm is almost fully recovered, it's just this damn leg now."
"It'll come back," Jill trailed off. "I see that you have a visitor. I'll be back later. Samantha make sure your Aunt doesn't get up again."
"I'll try Dr. Brock," Samantha said hoarsely, dropping her gaze.
"I didn't expect to see you until later," Max said, easing back down on the bed as she studied her niece. "Samantha? What's wrong?"
She shook her head, "I don't want to bug you. I shouldn't have come."
"Hey," Max said softly, forgetting about her problems. "Samantha, whatever it is you can tell me. We're family remember?"
"But you're hurt."
"Physically, yeah," Max agreed. "So please don't run off because I'm not up to chasing you quite yet. What's going on?"
Samantha joined her cautiously on the side of the bed. "I'm so scared. Aunt Maxie? I don't know what to do anymore. I want to forget, but I can't. And everyone knows, or at least they think that they do. They just know what he said. I don't know what to do!"
Max nodded, as she tried to ignore the gnawing feeling in her gut. "About what?"
She shook her head. "Nothing even happened! I can't stop thinking about it though! He tried . . ."
Samantha tried to clamp down on her tears, but couldn't as she buried her head against Max's chest. "He tried to rape me!"