Hold My Hand 

For a few, crucial minutes, Ella could not comprehend what Ethan was telling her as she waited expectantly for Peter to be wheeled back into the hospital room.

She cried violently, her face turning red, her heart hammering and it took Micah and Don combined to keep her seated while she beat them off with fists and feet until finally it was just Don, hugging her as she sobbed, begging her to stay on the bed with him, his voice cracking as the ability to live ebbed out of her. She needed to see him. She needed to see her poor little Peter, her little red faced angel, who curled his little fingers around her hair and cried loudly until she held him, until he took her milk. She didn’t want to see him. But she needed to, she needed to say goodbye, she needed to hold him one last time, tell him how much his mummy loved him before she sent him off to the Heavens. He needed to hear her voice, because he was so little and there was no way death could take him if Peter didn’t know that Ella would never, never let him go.

She could still hear Don the day before, holding Peter and telling her, “Ells, he’s beautiful. He’s beautiful.” She could feel her legs strain from the effort of pushing and the last cry she gave before his voice cried out and Ella herself cried because here he was. After nine months, he existed and Ella could not imagine how he didn’t exist before. How her life could have ever been just her.

"Please, please." she begged, mucus and tears mixing with exhaustion as the glow of new motherhood began to turn into the pale gray pallor of defeat. "Let me see him." She pleaded softly. "Let me see Peter." She simply lay there, engulfed in numbness and Don’s arms. He too shook with grief and together they cried for the little baby who didn’t live at all. Ella clung to Don like a life line, like the only person in the world who understood what it felt like to live in pain, to only know misery. "He was right here two hours ago, Don. I held him right here. I told him about his crib." She could hear Don telling her to be quiet, for the love of God Ella, please stop talking, but it was no use. "Wasn’t he beautiful?"

Quiet met her question. Don’s weight eased off and Ella’s eyes opened to see Ethan walking towards her with a still bundle. Her chest ached and her hands automatically went out to hold the blanketed baby. Her heart stopped as she stared at Peter, waiting for his chest to rise or his legs to attempt a powerful kick. She waited for his eyes to open in the offending manner he took to being out in the real world, waited for the in take of his breath as he cried out but he was silent and still.

"Hey, Peter." she whispered for her little boy, holding him so that he rested in her arms. She barely made out Don walking towards the window, covering his face with his hands. "Hey baby. I’ve got you now. Mummy’s so proud of you, baby. Daddy’s so proud of you too. We’re always here, if you get scared, if you fall down on your way to Heaven, we’re always here to give you a kiss. Baby, don’t be afraid that you’re leaving. You’ve got your dads spirit and my.. and m-my—" Ella’s voice hitched as she fought the oncoming tears. She didn’t want to scare Peter. Her voice never raised above a whisper as she rocked his body, humming a lullaby, her eyes closing as she waited for a yawn. She heard heavy footsteps—Don—walking towards her, the sound of hushed murmuring outside her door, and the unsettling silence which thundered loudly in her ears. She heard every cry Peter would never make, ever dashed attempt at crawling, every syllable of every word he would never say.

"Mummy loves you. Daddy loves you. Oh, Peter. Peter. Peter." Ella repeated his name, her rocking halted as she bent forward, bring her forehead to his, splashing tears on his little face, pooling all of her love and heartbreak into the heart that would never beat again. Gentle hands rested on her shoulder, Don’s voice in her ear, and gradually she sat back, unraveling the blanket so that she could kiss his hands and feet and his still heart.

Don shuddered when she handed Peter to him with out the blanket, sinking down on the bed near her and simply staring, unable to believe that only hours before he told Ella that the crib was finally finished. Unable to believe his eyes could shine so brightly and large from someone so small. Ella shifted behind him, resting her chin on his shoulder, looking down at the incredible miracle they had created together. “He’s so beautiful.” she murmured, breaking down and looking away, unable to bear watching the unnatural stillness for a moment longer. Ella held on tightly to Peter’s blanket, unwilling to watch as Don gently handed Peter back to Ethan, a fathers momentary weakness shining through when he said “Make sure you give him another blanket so he doesn’t get cold.”