"Getting to feel free and easy when I am with you"

Oscar Hammerstein, Getting To Know You

Chapter Fourteen – Regeneration and Challenges

On a morning of April, Grace gave birth to her daughter Lily. The sky was blue and a light breeze had taken away the cold winter to head towards a timid spring. If everyone had been on a permanent alert for the few previous days, it nonetheless turned out to be surprising – probably because this time their routine was definitively broken and a page of their life had just been turned.

Visitors being allowed only in the afternoon, Karen spent the few hours that separated her from Grace sat down on the couch of the living-room – staring blankly at the wall in front of her. Will and Jack had left to go and buy some flowers as she had declined their offer to come along. She needed to be alone – to think about whatever Lily's birth meant to her. Unfortunately scanning her heart resulted bare and as she pursed her lips in wonder, realized it had only led her to an immense frustration.

She wasn't euphoric and actually dreaded her meeting with the new-born more than anything else but it was all she could come up to in spite of her efforts to concentrate on whatever emotions Lily's birth had stirred up.

Lost in her doubts and interrogations, she let the hours pass by until the exact moment when she found herself in front of the door of the hospital bedroom. Will's hand was warm against hers – reassuring but it didn't prevent her heart from speeding up as they knocked then entered. Grace was lying there in bed drinking a glass of water – an arm up, behind her head. She looked tired but calm and serene – happy. The basic questions went too quickly as well as the introduction to Lily who was sleeping in her crib – peacefully.

In the background and observing the scene in silence, Karen felt lost. Her friends were ecstatic – their attention fully turned on the baby they all wanted to hold tightly. For her part, she simply wanted to go away – or desperately look like them. Things would be so easier then.

"Karen... Would you like to take her in your arms?"

She wasn't a novice, after all her own sister had given birth three times but it never felt right when she held one of her nephews – as if she didn't find herself at the right place, with the right person. But not to disappoint Grace, she accepted quietly and took Lily against her carefully. She was short and didn't weigh that much in her arms – even looked immensely fragile. Seeking for more comfort, she sat down on an armchair and studied the new-born's features. Did it last that long? She wouldn't be able to say but as she looked up again, Will and Jack had left to get a coffee at the cafeteria and she was now alone with Grace and the baby she immediately put back down in the crib.

"She needs a cousin – boy or girl, she doesn't mind."

Grace's comment hit the air with self-confidence and came to embrace Karen's cheeks with heat as she blushed and raised her eyebrows – a bit perplexed.

"One day, maybe..."

"Stop postponing your life like this, Karen. Or one day you will wake up only to realize that you will have missed out every single one of your opportunities. I know that you can't have children but there are different possibilities, starting with adoption. Why don't you have a look at it?"

"I don't know..."

"Just like your marriage to Will... You have been sort of engaged for months now and yet you haven't made the slightest plan – haven't taken the slightest decision about it. You don't even have a ring!"

Instinctively she looked down at her left hand and observed her bare finger in silence. It had been four months now since she had proposed him on top of the Rockfeller Center and four months he had said yes. But once the exhilaration of the first seconds passed, they had simply had a drink midtown before going back home to celebrate Christmas Eve. Without talking about their engagement anymore since then.

"You say that you want to turn a page, to start a brand new life then do – jump into it eyes closed, with Will. It is all about regeneration and challenges. It has always been."

Regeneration and challenges – the words hit her mind with strength and logic. She was about to reply when the door got opened. Will and Jack came in – put an implicit end to the conversation. They stayed at the hospital until the end of the regular visits then decided to go and celebrate it at some restaurant nearby. They didn't head back to Riverside Drive until late in the evening – overwhelmed and rocked by the baby's birth.

Mug of tea in hand, Karen headed out on the terrace where Will had been standing alone for a while – probably observing the stars as he loved doing when a thousand wonders hit his brain without finding the slightest answer to any of them. It was cold now and she couldn't help shivering – took a sip of the hot beverage to warm up her body.

"I want to get married, Will... I want to have a child – a family with you. I want all of this. I need it."

Perhaps she should have thought about the best way to bring up the conversation without sounding too intrusive – taking him aback on an overwhelming day.

Taking another sip of her tea, Karen came to the conclusion that she had studied situations and chosen words for too long – that as a matter of fact, she hadn't done anything else until now in her life. Grace was right. It was time to live again and accept challenges – as long as they were with Will.

"Let's have all of this, honey..."

She didn't kiss him to accompany her last comment but hid herself behind the tea mug and smiled as he pressed her hand tightly.

Regeneration and challenges...