Author's Note: Seven glimpses into seven nights in the first year of Danny and Lindsay being parents.
The leaves crackle underfoot as Danny pushes Lucy's stroller through the park. Lindsay pulls her jacket tighter around her.
There's a definite nip to the air now, with it being autumn, and she's made sure that Lucy has on the little pink hat that Stella bought for her, but it's nice to get out and not be stuck at home all the time.
Danny pulls her close, she feels his breath on her; he stops for a moment and they exchange kisses by the side of the path, his hands still clenched to the stroller handle.
"Look how happy we are," she says, and he can only agree as the stroller is pushed on.
Lindsay stirs from her sleep and opens her eyes. Something isn't quite right, and a closer inspection in the darkness that envelopes the room confirms her suspicion. Danny, who had been there after the last time she had checked on Lucy, isn't there anymore, his pillow ice cold.
Standing up and slipping her feet into her slippers, she hopes that he had just has insomnia and is eating a very early breakfast or checking on Lucy.
"Danny?" she whispers, making her way out into the family room. "Are you out here?"
A muffled grunt is her sole reply. "Danny? You okay?"
The scene before her is one she'll probably never forget – Danny, tangled in strings of glowing Christmas lights, a Christmas tree she's never seen before perched precariously above him. "Lindsay," he says with his hand waving in the air, "Help!"
"What are you doing out here?" she asks, helping to pull him to his feet.
"I was trying to get this Christmas tree up."
"I could have helped."
"It was supposed to be a surprise for you and Lindsay."
She smiles, stands on her tiptoes, and cups his chin in her hand. "Thank you," she says, kissing him, "but let's make it a surprise for just Lucy."
The next evening, as he plugs in the lights and she looks at the change in Lucy's face when the lights light up, she knows it's all worth it.
She sips her iced tea, feels the cool liquid slide down her throat, and massages her forehead with two fingers. She knows that just out of her range of vision, Danny's sitting on the floor and playing pat-a-cake with Lucy before it's time for her bath, and then bedtime.
Fatherhood's been so good to him – Lucy's the apple of his eye; it shows every time he looks at her. And she's a happy child, such a happy child, and she's going to make her parents proud.
She walks into the bathroom and fills the baby bathtub with water.
Danny carries Lucy into the bathroom, kisses Lindsay for a brief moment, and sits Lucy down in the water.
Lucy likes bath time; she likes it even better when Danny's the one who does it, so Lindsay walks back to the table and finishes off her iced tea.
She catches a glimpse of the moon outside the window, and she smiles to herself. Such a perfect little family they make.
Lucy's restless tonight. Every lullaby they sing – even if Lindsay's voice isn't the best, she still tries – every rocking motion they make, nothing seems to be working, and the night is wearing on.
Lindsay frowns, as she sings the fifth rendition of "Rock-a-bye Baby" in the last forty-five minutes. It's almost as if she knows about the promise for "quality time" her parents had made that afternoon on their way home from work.
One could call Lucy Messer a very smart baby.
She's not sure how much later it is, when Lucy's tired eyelids finally droop closed, and Lindsay places her in the crib, a blanket over her.
"She's asleep?" Danny asks, coming in and pulling Lindsay close, kissing her.
"So about that –" A piercing wail shatters the silence and cuts Danny off mid-sentence.
"Your turn," Lindsay says with a sigh.
There would be other nights.
Stella has taken Lucy for the night – "you two need a break, you know" – and after a dinner, at an actual restaurant, consisting of more than what can be heated for five minutes in a microwave, they collapse back at home.
"When did we get so boring?" Danny asks, as Lindsay undoes his belt buckle and throws it behind her.
"Just kiss me," she says, "and let's enjoy tonight."
Seconds later, when he complies with her request, she enjoys the feeling of kissing him without rushing or possibility of disruption. His hands slip upward to unhook her bra, and for a short time, as they break the silence of their dark apartment in unison; they let themselves believe that there is nothing else in the world.
The illusion is shattered when Danny stumbles on Lucy's spare diaper bag.
It was good while it lasted.
It's approaching Lucy's birthday – almost one year old, and she's growing so fast. Lindsay holds Lucy one evening and looks into the bathroom mirror. Danny had left a short time before to pick up a late dinner from down the street.
"Who's my pretty girl?" she says, tickling the bottom of Lucy's feet, and she sees, both in the reflection and out of it, Lucy's wide smile as she laughs. "You are!"
She hears the door creak open, and she walks out to greet Danny. "Who wants," Danny holds a plastic bag of Chinese takeout aloft in the air as he kisses Lindsay, "Chinese food?!"
"I do!" Lindsay says, "I don't think Lucy would like it, though."
"Not yet, anyway. We'll make her into a moo shu pork fan one day."
"What would you have her eat?"
"Kung Pao chicken. Like me. Or maybe she won't even like Chinese food."
"We'll see," he says, and as he sets the table, Lindsay hears him say under his breath, "I still think she'd like it."
They're resting on the couch as they observe Lucy playing on the floor with the wrapping paper, newly left over from her birthday party that afternoon.
"Can you believe it's been a year?" she asks, running her hand up and down his leg.
"No," he says, turning to her and smiling, "Lucy got spoiled today. No more presents. Ever." A large pile of presents, of all shapes, sizes, materials and uses, sits at the other end of the living room.
Lindsay laughs and says, "I agree."
"So, Mrs. Monroe-Messer," he says, looking at her, "what do you think about another one? Lucy needs a brother."
"Or a sister."
"Or a sister," he repeats.
"I like that idea," she says, kissing him, "but let's put Lucy to bed first."
The little pink plus sign that shows up a few weeks later is the last birthday gift that Lucy receives that year.