Written by April Wilson
Copyright © 2023. All rights reserved.
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“Go, pony! Go!” Luke squeals as he clutches the back of Jamie’s T-shirt with both hands in an effort to balance himself on his uncle’s back.
Jamie is on his hands and knees giving Luke pony rides around the family room in Beth and Shane’s new house. Fortunately, the center of the room is free of furniture, so Jamie’s able to navigate safely in spite of his blindness.
Luke is in heaven. Shane warned us when we arrived at their house for babysitting duty this evening that Luke’s new favorite game is playing pony rides. Ever since they moved out of the penthouse apartment into this new home in the McIntyre compound, Luke has been begging for a pony.
Beth and Shane are out on a date. Tonight’s a big deal for them as it’s the first time they’ve left the kids since Ava was born. Cooper and Sam, who share the new house with them, are out clubbing with Tyler and Ian tonight—hence the need for babysitters.
While Jamie’s entertaining Luke, I’m attempting to give Ava her bedtime bottle. Beth warned me that Ava isn’t keen on bottles. She’ll take one from Shane, albeit grudgingly, but that’s about it. So far I’ve gotten her to drink about a quarter of her bottle. She really wants her mama to nurse her.
I stare down at my perfectly flat chest and chuckle. “Sorry, sweetie, but I can’t help you there.”
After my breast cancer diagnosis, I chose to have a double mastectomy. I’ll never be able to nurse a baby. But that’s okay. Thank goodness for baby formula.
My gaze alternates between Ava, with her soft brown hair and bright blue eyes, and Jamie and Luke romping around on the carpeted floor. Jamie’s a natural with kids. His nieces and nephews adore him. It’s no secret that he yearns to be a dad one day. He’s determined that his blindness won’t hinder his ability to care for children. Of course, I know that already. Nothing holds Jamie back. He’s one of the most driven people I’ve ever known. I guess that’s one of the traits that made him such a good Navy SEAL and an even better boyfriend. Well, actually he’s my fiancé now. We just need to set a date for the wedding. We already know where we’ll hold the ceremony—at the Kenilworth estate.
Luke squeals even louder when Jamie rolls to his side, gently tossing the little boy off his back and catching him before he hits the floor.
Luke clambers to his feet and jumps up and down. “More pony, Damie! More!”
“Give me a minute to catch my breath, little man,” Jamie says as he lies on his back, breathing hard. Luke’s giving him a good workout.
Luke lies down on the floor right beside Jamie, mimicking his posture.
“He’s copying you,” I tell Jamie.
Jamie reaches over and tickles Luke, who explodes with laughter.
I glance down at Ava, who has now spit out her bottle’s nipple. Her tiny pink lips are quivering, and I think she’s on the verge of tears.
Jamie climbs to his feet and joins me on the sofa.
“How’s she doing?” he asks. He leans close so that his shoulder presses against mine.
“She’s not thrilled,” I reply. “This bottle isn’t cutting it. She wants her mama.”
Jamie puts his arm across my shoulders and leans in to kiss my cheek. “Do you want me to try?”
“Be my guest,” I say, handing Ava to Jamie.
Once he has her securely cradled in his left arm, I hand him the bottle.
“Here you go, sweetheart,” he coos as he brings the nipple to her lips. Using his pinkie finger as a gentle guide, he succeeds in slipping the nipple between her pouty little lips.
“Be a good girl and drink your milk.”
Surprisingly, Ava latches onto the nipple, and starts sucking hungrily.
“Good grief,” I say, watching Ava. “She likes you better than she likes me.”
Jamie chuckles. “I probably remind her of Shane.”
When Luke comes over to me and lays his head on my thigh, I pick him up and set him on my lap. He leans his head against my chest and pops his thumb in his mouth.
“I think you wore this little guy out,” I say.
“Good,” Jamie says, “because it’s almost bedtime for both of them.”
After Ava finishes her bottle, Jamie holds her to his chest and pats her back until she burps.
“Her eyes are closing,” I tell him.
He holds her against him for a few more minutes, supporting her bottom with one hand while his other hand cradles the back of her head.
Watching Jamie hold Ava brings a lump to my throat. I know how badly he wants kids. I do, too, but I have… concerns, namely my age and my previous bout with breast cancer.
When Ava’s finished with her bottle, I take her to Beth and Shane’s bedroom to change her diaper and lay her in the cradle at the foot of their bed. Jamie takes Luke to his bedroom to change his diaper and put him in his pajamas.
Ava drifts right off to sleep, so I go peek in on Jamie and Luke. I find Jamie sitting in a rocking chair, Luke resting in his lap. Jamie’s rocking and telling Luke a story about a little cowboy and his beloved pony.
“You should consider writing children’s books,” I say from the open doorway after Jamie completes his charming bedtime story. After all, Jamie’s a writer. How hard could it be to transition from military thrillers to kids’ books?
He chuckles. “You think so?”
“Yes. You made that story up right off the cuff, didn’t you? By the way, he’s already asleep.”
He continues rocking. “I know. My story must have bored him to sleep.”
“How can you tell?” It always amazes me how, in spite of his blindness, Jamie can read his environment and the people around him.
“His breathing changed. It deepened and slowed halfway through the story.”
I watch as Jamie lays Luke in his crib. The little boy rolls onto his tummy and pops his thumb into his mouth. Jamie rubs his back for a few minutes to make sure Luke’s really asleep. When he finally joins me in the doorway, we turn off the light and pull Luke’s door partly closed.
Jamie takes my hand and leads me back to the family room. Despite the length of time we’ve been together, I still marvel at his ability to get around without his cane. Granted, he’s been here at the new house a few times already, long enough to memorize the floor plan and the placement of furniture… still it’s impressive. I could never do half of the things he can do.
I dim the lights and join Jamie on the sofa.
“Since the kids are asleep,” he says as he pulls me into his arms, “it’s just you and me now.”
“Have you got something in mind?”
“Yes. I want to hold you.” He kicks off his shoes and lies back on the sofa so he can stretch out.
My shoes end up on the floor, too, and then I join him, stretched out beside him. It’s a tight squeeze. “I feel like I’m in high school all over again, babysitting, waiting for the grown-ups to come home.”
“Are you telling me you had boys over while you were babysitting?”
I laugh. “Good lord, no! That would have gotten me in some serious trouble. The number one rule for babysitters was no boys allowed. That would have gotten me fired for sure.”
He smiles. “Good. I’m glad to hear it—not the getting fired part, but the no boys allowed part.” He leans in and kisses me. Then he trails the tip of his index finger lightly across my brow, then down the bridge of my nose, to my lips. He traces the curve of my upper lip. “Do you think we’ll get in trouble for making out on their sofa?”
I smile. “Only if we get caught.”
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I hope you enjoyed this quick visit with Jamie and Molly. My next newsletter will include a bonus scene featuring Jake and Annie.
~ Love, April