The child was light in her arms, all big blue eyes and wriggling limbs. Tiny fingers gripped onto her thumb with astonishing power, and Stevie smiled as the baby’s mouth opened in a yawn. She tamped down the possessiveness she felt clawing at her heart, and settled for sitting down on the large cushion-covered couch in her dressing room, cradling the three week old in her arms. She felt Karen watching her carefully (I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine) and concentrated on memorizing the features on the face so heartbreakingly familiar and different in equal parts - HIS eyes she took solace in. Running a finger along the babe’s small upturned nose, she almost laughed at how Stella blinked her eyes rapidly at the touch. Sensitive. The child’s father was much the same, Stevie thought to herself.
[he lay in their small bed curled onto his side, a large hand stretched out and covering her bared breast. they’d gone to bed early last night to celebrate their success at the latest gig. he’d earned a sleep-in with his very energetic display of certain skills… she kissed his cheek, his ear, his eyelids and finally his nose. scrunching up his face, he grimaced in his sleep and swatted her away. she laughed and did it again.]
Stevie lightly touched the baby’s head, her soft pale hair barely there and yet a mark of who she belonged to. Kicking out with determined little movements, Stella was evidently trying to escape from her tightly wound wrap, and she felt a strange kind of sympathy for the little one. Freedom was hard to come by at any age, it seemed. She tightened the soft mauve material around her just a touch, keeping her small body secure in her arms and Stella settled a bit, her semi-clenched fist stilling on her belly.
[she could barely make out long dark curls on his head, the blankets and comforter covering him almost completely. smiling, she took off her shoes and socks and climbed into bed beside him, wrapping an arm around his waist. he didn’t wake, simply nuzzled into her touch, seeking her even in sleep]
A knock sounded at the door and Karen looked at her expectantly. She nodded. Time up.
She was familiar with that concept, of course. Every time she walked onstage with Lindsey, her small hand cradled in his, she was more than aware that a clock was ticking away in the background. Everything she wanted with him, that she wanted for them, was temporary; it was an illusion that she could afford to indulge in her mind but not fully express in reality. Boundaries had been set recently, lines drawn. And she wouldn’t cross them. Or tempt him to cross them.
Not much, anyway.
[he was crying. not the soft tears of someone trying to hold it together. his heaving sobs and wet, wet tears and broken speech buried her under their emotional weight. so she just held him, told him it was okay to miss his father. she held him to her breast, stroked his hair like he was a small child. she just loved him. there were no barriers between them anymore]
Lindsey walked eagerly over to her as soon as Karen had opened the door, Kristen a step behind him as they entered the dressing room. He’d changed his shirt (he’d told her once his wife refused to touch him until he ridded himself of that sweat-soaked mess after a show) and looked happily over at her. That wasn’t always the case these days but, she thought cynically, holding his child out for him apparently did wonders for improving his mood in dealing with his ex-girlfriend.
"Did she behave herself for you?" he asked, sitting beside her, their legs touching. And damn, she still was in a too intimate mental place from their earlier interactions during the show. He needed to stop leaning in so close, his breath warm against her cheek as he trailed his pinky along his daughter’s cheek. "Stevie?"
"Huh? Oh. Yeah. Except for the whole beating me black and blue with a stolen baseball bat, she was an absolute angel," she joked half-heartedly.
Grinning, he kissed her cheek. Friendly. Just friendly. “Thanks for minding her. We really appreciate it.” And so she gave Stella back. It wasn’t the action that hurt near as much as the ‘we’ coming from Lindsey being so natural to his mouth and being naturally about he and Kristen. She’d once been part of a unit like that. She’d always been a very strong individual in her own right, of course. As Lindsey had. But there was a kind of power and security in being part of a ‘we’ and an ‘us’ that was no longer there. And she sometimes craved it.
[his arm rested around her waist possessively and she felt both a thrill at how obviously jealous he was and resentment that he seemed to distrust her. or maybe he just distrusted the young men leering at her from across the room… sometimes it was hard to tell what was going on in his mind. she bumped into his side gently as they made their way to the drinks table and looked up at him. i love you, she mouthed. i love you too, he said. loudly.]
Stevie watched as Kristen ceased her conversation with Karen and made her way over to the couch, resting a hand on Lindsey’s shoulder and watching affectionately as her husband cradled their daughter in his strong arms. He looked good with babies, Stevie thought, not for the first time. There was a certain light in his blue eyes as he stood up, never looking away from the small babe he held. Kristen took Stella from him, her handbag taking the place of the child in an exchange of no words, and left, the door banging behind her.
Drawing in a deep breath of what felt like stale air to her (an acknowledgement couldn’t have hurt, Mrs Buckingham…), Stevie fiddled with the large gold ring on her index finger, trying to ignore the inevitable next step - Lindsey walking straight out after his wife.
She startled when she felt his large hand slightly too cold on the nape of her neck, two of his fingers twined in her hair. He stood behind her (far too close, not close enough) and she didn’t want to turn and face him. She hated herself when she turned into this cowardly, pathetic version of her usual, better self. She hated the power he had.
Stevie leaned back into him and immediately felt him relax, hearing the handbag drop to the floor as his arms came around her in a close embrace and he rested his chin on her shoulder. She loved the power she had.
[his socked feet skidded across the kitchen floor within seconds of her calling for him. grinning, she reached for his hand and tugged, pulling him over to the table she’d set for two. he kissed her appreciatively, told her that it looked fantastic. and it did. they ate slowly, enjoying it, savoring it. and when she told him he was going to have to do the day’s washing up, he didn’t even try and say no.]
Closing her eyes, she scolded herself for thinking too much and placed a hand on top of his, loving its familiar roughness against her own soft skin. The moment wouldn’t last so she’d make the most of it. Pretend.
And then the idiot ruined it. As usual. His voice was quiet but she heard every word like he was shouting them, like he was throwing her decisions and choices back in her face, pointing out her failures at her when she was unprepared.
"Stevie?" he said hesitantly. "You would have been a great mom."
[he didn’t speak for a long time after she showed him the results, tears in her eyes. she searched his face, needing some kind of reassurance and if the bastard couldn’t even give her that then-
his kiss was fierce and needy, and his hands roamed her body possessively. i’ll take care of you, he promised. we’ll make it work, he vowed. you’re going to be such a great mom to our baby, he said with confidence. he lifted her shirt and kissed her still-flat stomach gently.
i love you, he whispered. and i love you too, he said softly to her belly. you’re gonna have the best mommy and daddy ever, he claimed proudly.]
His arms stayed tight around her and she dropped her head, trying to ignore the ache in her chest. In her heart.
"You really would have."
The tears fell fast and hard.
[by the time he arrived at the hospital, she was asleep. and the child was gone.]