Chapter Twenty-Four: Everyone Has One

A/N: Okay, I've read all your reviews – thank you, btw! – and the general consensus seems to be that y'all want the story to continue. Now, I know I'm a slow updater, and I'm sorry. I always have good intentions but I'm a busy college student. There just aren't enough hours in the day to update every single day. Anyways, ya'll asked for the story to continue, so I'll try not to disappoint...

"I'm actually scared," Cooper admitted, stalling outside the door of their daughter's hospital room. He scuffed his shoe against the floor and cleared this throat, crossing and re-crossing his arms over his chest. When he finally forced himself to meet Charlotte's gaze, he acknowledged the obvious by saying, "Once we go in there and tell Marjorie I'm her father, everything is going to change."

Charlotte carefully searched his face. "I thought that's what you wanted. I thought you wanted your relationship with Marjorie to grow and change, and develop beyond just bein' buddies."

"I do want that," Cooper asserted, quick to add, "But this is a huge revelation for a little kid. We're about to take everything Marjorie knows about her family, about who and where she comes from, and turn it on its head. She's bound to be confused - especially since 'daddy' is such a foreign concept to her." He took a deep breath and confessed, "I guess I'm just worried that this conversation won't go well and she'll never forgive me."

"Cooper," Charlotte began, reaching out and smoothing his shirt collar. "You're bein' a little over-dramatic here, don't you think? Not every lil' thing spells the end of days." She reminded him, "You were Marjorie's age when your parents broke the news that you were adopted. Now," she challenged him, eyebrow arched. "Did that revelation ruin your relationship with them? Are you somehow scarred for life because of it?"

"No, of course not," he immediately asserted. "I love my parents. I owe them everything. I don't hold that conversation against them. They were just telling me the truth. It didn't change anything between us. It didn't erase all the love and all the care they'd given me-"

Cooper stopped short. He looked at Charlotte's smiling face and smiled himself, conceding, "Okay, I get your point; Marjorie won't hold this against us forever."

"Has it ever occurred to you, Coop, that Marjorie might actually be happy to learn you're her daddy?" The hangdog look on his face confirmed Charlotte's sneaking suspicion that Cooper hadn't allowed himself to think good things in case he got his heart stomped on. "Oh, Cooper," Charlotte sighed, her voice softening even as she chided him, "You shouldn't sell yourself so short. Marjorie idolizes you. She thinks you hung the moon and the stars in the sky."

Smiling softly, Cooper marveled, "You're amazing, Charlotte. I don't know how you can be so calm right now."

"The best thing we can do for Marjorie is be calm," she told him. "She's gonna take her cues from us; she'll be okay if we're okay."

Cooper nodded. He knew she was probably right.

"So, how are we going to do this?" Cooper rubbed his temple. He was trying his best to rally but he still looked nervous. "Do you want to take the lead and tell her, or should I?"

Charlotte was a little taken aback. She'd imagined - hell, she'd almost expected that Cooper would want to be the one to tell Marjorie. It surprised her that he would want to shirk that very important responsibility onto her shoulders.

But on second thought, Charlotte decided it was better that Cooper shirk that responsibility than say something regrettable because he was nervous.

"I'll do it." Charlotte saw the relief flood his face and truthfully, it annoyed her. "I'm her mother, so I'll do it. I'll tell her."

"Okay, good." Cooper fussed with the collar of his shirt before reaching for the door handle. He looked to Charlotte with a tight smile. "You ready?"

"Ready," she replied, following two steps behind him into the hospital room.

They both smiled when they found Marjorie stretched out sideways across the foot of her bed watching cartoons. She was using one of her many stuffed animals as a pillow - funny considering that she had two perfectly good pillows lying idol - as her skinny little chicken legs dangled off into the air.

Neither Charlotte nor Cooper could conceive of any possible way that position could be comfortable, but their daughter looked happy enough.

"Hey there, Ladybug." Charlotte perched at the head of the bed with an easy smile. She grabbed the remote and switched off the television; that certainly got their daughter's attention. "Momma and Dr. Cooper need to talk to you 'bout something very special."

Charlotte had phrased it that way on purpose. She wasn't about to say they wanted to talk to her about something 'very important' because that was the phrase she'd used to tell Marjorie about the cancer.

She wanted to frame this revelation in the best way possible.

Marjorie rolled onto her stomach and propped her head up on her elbows. "But momma," she complained, her voice pitching up into a whine. "I was in the middle of watchin' that."

"I'm sure you can catch it again on rerun," Charlotte told her, setting the remote out of reach on the bedside table. She smiled at her daughter for a beat, very cognizant of the fact that her child's life was about to change forever. "Momma needs to tell you a story, okay?"

Marjorie perked up. "A bedtime story - like, a fairytale?"

"Um, not quite." Charlotte sat forward and pulled her daughter into her lap. She smoothed the little girl's wispy blond hair out of her eyes. "It's a true story; a true story about momma and Dr. Cooper."

"A mushy gushy love story?" the little girl asked, scrunching up her nose as if to say 'ewww, gross!'.

Charlotte saw Cooper smile out of the corner of her eye. She smiled herself and reassured her daughter, "I'll leave out all the mushy gushy parts and keep to the facts, how does that sound?"

Marjorie's nod was a comically serious one. "Sounds good."

"Okay, good." Charlotte positioned her daughter sideways in her lap so they could look each other in the face. "Where should I start, do you think?" she asked, and she meant the question to be a rhetorical one.

The little girl answered anyway and told her, "Start from 'once upon a time'."

Charlotte smiled at her baby. "Okay... once upon a time - 'bout six years ago, back before you were born, momma used to live out here in California-"

Cooper piped up, "Seven years."

The interruption irked Charlotte, but after a second, she realized that his math was right. Marjorie was coming up fast on her sixth birthday, so that meant nearly seven years had passed since their first try at a relationship had gone up in smoke. God, that made her feel old.

"Seven years ago," she corrected. "Your momma used to live out here in California and work at another hospital, where, occasionally, she would work with Dr. Cooper."

Charlotte knew she was rewriting history to a certain extent, but Marjorie had absolutely no business - not now, not ever - knowing about her parents' internet sexcapades. One glance at Cooper, seeing his vigorous nod, told her that he agreed wholeheartedly.

"Now," Charlotte continued, choosing her words very carefully. "Your momma and Dr. Cooper... we were very, very close. We dated for two years and we love, and very happy together." She wrestled with her next disclosure but ultimately, she decided that Marjorie should know that, for the most part, her parents had been very committed to each other. "We almost got married, actually."

Marjorie immediately seized on that. Her blue eyes became round as quarters and she smiled a big Cheshire cat smile. "Are y'all gettin' married? Is that what you wanna tell me?"

The little girl started bouncing excitedly in her mother's lap until Charlotte cut in, "Whoa, whoa, Ladybug. Cooper and I aren't gettin' married. I was just sayin' that once upon a time, it almost happened. That's all."

Marjorie deflated and they were left with a very disappointed little girl. "Oh."

Charlotte tried to coax a smile out of her daughter when she told her, "Hey, don't get that way, Ladybug. The story isn't over yet. We're just gettin' to the good part - you."

"Me?" the little girl asked, her attention piqued. "What about me?"

"Well, you're the most important person in this story."

"I am?" Marjorie was wide-eyed and hanging on her mother's every word. "What'd I do?"

Cooper edged onto the hospital bed beside his family. He was obviously positioning himself nearby for the big reveal.

"Well," Charlotte paused for a beat. "Eventually, Cooper and I decided not to be boyfriend and girlfriend anymore, and I was very, very sad about that. It broke my heart a little bit. I thought I'd never be happy again, but then I found out that you were in my belly, that God had given you to me." Smiling at her daughter, she said, "And you made me happy again."

Cooper's chest swelled. He'd never heard Charlotte speak with so much love and genuine, heartfelt emotion. It was beautiful to hear.

Charlotte looked deep into their daughter's eyes, prompting her, "Remember last year when you asked me where babies come from? Do you remember what I told you?"

Marjorie nodded, and blurted out with no shame whatsoever, "Mommas and daddies get a baby from God when they have sex."

Cooper cringed when he heard the word 'sex' casually come out of his five-year-old's mouth, but then again, Charlotte had never sugarcoated anything for anyone. It made sense that she - a doctor and ex-sexologist - wouldn't shy away from explaining the facts of life to their daughter if asked.

"That's right," Charlotte confirmed with a nod. "God gives babies to mommas and daddies, so every baby that's born has one momma and one daddy." She indicated herself. "I have a momma and a daddy." She indicated Cooper. "Cooper has a momma and a daddy." Charlotte made a big, sweeping gesture with her hand and concluded, "Every single person born into this world has a momma and a daddy - even you."

Charlotte paused and took a deep breath before, finally, she confessed, "Sweetheart, God gave you to me and to Cooper. He's your daddy."


A/N: Marjorie's unexpected reaction coming up next...REVIEW!