Chapter 14

Welcome Home, Baby Girl

An exhausted Evangeline and John stepped from the elevator into the penthouse and Van immediately headed to the bar to make a drink. Her fingers hover over the top of a bottle of scotch, not usually her drink of choice but she needs something very strong to keep herself upright. Today she’ll join John in two fingers of scotch straight up; it’s all so horrible maybe she should pour three fingers instead.

Settling herself in a chair sized for two she listens and watches as John checks messages, praying there’s not another emergency with their daughter when they had just left her. If they didn’t trust Dorian and Michael so much she and John would never leave the hospital. But Dorian was right, they had to start reestablishing a routine at home. Their baby would be here someday and they needed to make sure they were ready. They both needed rest but with a sick newborn it was impossible to be still, to let go of their fears.

“Normal stuff, not the hospital.” says John as he crosses to join her in the chair, sitting behind her and pulling her near careful not to spill the drinks she’s holding. “You’re having a serious drink? Yeah, things have been that bad haven’t they?”

Pressing back against him Van sighs, “I keep trying to remember to be grateful that she’s alive and really, she’s getting better everyone says so. She wasn’t that premature and she’s fighting hard to get those toxins out of her little body. But this is wrong, in every possible way this is just so wrong. I can’t bear to watch them draw more blood from her, I hear her crying even when she’s not.” Lifting the glass to take a sip her arm goes limp and the glass falls away spilling the amber liquid on John’s shirt sleeve, neither seems to notice.

“She’s tough; she has both of our genes to fight with remember? And she’s made a good showing so far, there’s a lot to be happy about. We’ll have her home before we know it.” declares John with more certainty and authority then he really feels.

“She hasn’t smiled once John, or laughed. Of course, she doesn’t have much to smile, coo or laugh about does she? Those are learned traits aren’t they? Everyone around her is grim so how can she coo? She also doesn’t have a name. Maybe if she had one, some proof that we believe she’s going to live…”

“Evangeline!!” John completely turns her around to face him, her legs splay out on either side of the chair, “You can’t think like that she WILL make it! But yeah, she needs a name. It’s been ten days since her birth. Did we have a favorite from that last list?”

“Nothing that jumped out for either of us. I do know that for a last name I only want McBain, no long drawn out tracing of the bloodlines on her birth certificate, thank you very much.”

“Eva? Evangelista? Evan?” he suggested.

“Never, no and no.” she replied.

“No fruit, vegetable, state or animal-related names either.” Van added.

“Natasha? That’s Alexis’s real name isn’t it? She’s been so great coming to stay with us. I know you’ve been happy to have your sister with you during this time, just as much as I appreciate having Mikey with me.”

“Too Russian, too Cassadine. I’d like for her to blend into the crowd with her name, not stand out with something that’ll make people wonder where she got her name from and start speculating on whose child she is. I want her name to help with her anonymity.”

“Baby, that’s not going to happen, she’s as beautiful as you are. People are going to pay attention to her no matter what we call her. Even with all the tubes running out of her body she’s lovely.”

Closing her eyes trying not to envision all the things protruding from her baby’s tiny body just makes the image and memory clearer and more sharply etched in Van’s brain. “This is all because she knows her worthless mother was so unhappy about being pregnant for so long. She knows I didn’t want her, so she’s wondering why she should stay in this world with us.”

“That’s not true, she knows you love her. We love her; so many people are rooting for her complete recovery. Please, please don’t start blaming yourself again.”

r “Have you found any indication that I was poisoned? No. Can’t put this off on Helena or even my mother, it’s me. I did something wrong. I inhaled, ate, exposed our child to something potentially lethal. What sort of mother is that careless and clueless? The kind that doesn’t really want you,” taking a shaky breath she goes on “I’m Dina’s kid all right.” Shuddering in John’s embrace Van tries not to cry, that’s all she’s been doing lately and it wasn’t solving a damn thing just giving her an awful ongoing headache that never let up.

“And the hospital personnel know there’s something not right with me too, that’s why they won’t let me hold her.”

“Evangeline…you have to stop this blaming yourself. You’re killing me here. She’s been in baby ICU, now she’s been upgraded to critical care; they need to make sure nothing compromises her immune system further. No one has held her, not nurses, me, Michael, no one. Now at least she’s in with some other babies, even though she’s still in a protected environment, its proof she’s getting better. You’ll hold our daughter soon, you’ll see and she’ll start laughing at her silly mommy.”

Nodding her head Van places her chin on John’s shoulder “So what name am I calling our laughing child?”

“Elise? Leigh? Renee?”

“Leigh Elise McBain? You know, your mom’s maiden name is Lee, and it’s the first name of one my grandfathers and your dad’s middle name. I kind of like that bit of family history and tradition, what do you think?” she sat back looking into John’s eyes which suddenly were no longer filled with anxiety.

“I think we have a winner. When we hold her for the first time and say it out loud to her I bet she’ll let us know whether or not she’s going to respond to that name or not. I think she’s gonna grin in glee.” replied John with a kiss to Van’s forehead.

Another eight days passed before John and Van could bring their daughter home. Leigh was still a little underweight but she had proven to be feisty and vocal. After much discussion they had decided to bring in the baby nurse/nanny who had helped raise Nikolas and was fearless against Helena and any other threat. Eve and Van’s grandmothers had interviewed her, checked out her background, spoken with Alexis and Nikolas and were feeling sure of their choice.

Still, even minus proof that Evangeline’s illness and premature delivery wasn’t a calculated plan of Helena’s the newly minted grandmother and great-grandmothers were taking turns staying in the penthouse keeping all-seeing eyes on the daily routine of the staff. And happily taking turns being at Leigh’s beck and call.

“So how’s it going new mom?” Michael asked watching John standing by the windows slightly swaying back and forth with Leigh in his arms.

“Great. I’m superfluous to my daughter there are so many people around her, spoiling her and the worst offender is your brother. For a man who claims I’m appalling spoiled I can’t wait until he has to face down his teenager over something she really, really wants and just has to have!”

“She does seem destined to be a daddy’s girl. He can’t let go of her. I pity the boys who come calling.” Michael grinned as Van rolled her eyes.

“You think he’ll let her date? You’re an optimist Mike, guess a doctor has to be. He’ll be standing at the door with all guns loaded. He worships her; she’s in awe of him. She hears his voice and stops the screaming and starts giggling. She’s got him right where she wants him.” Laughing a bit Van continues, “I’m paying attention to the way Starr Manning plays her dad, wondering if I pulled that with mine. Maybe, maybe I can understand a tiny bit why Dina can’t even stand to be around me when I’m with my dad. No one else in the world matters except a girl and her daddy, me with Laurence, Leigh with John. I’m loving seeing him with her.”

“Evangeline, does John ever let you hold your daughter?” Eve came up behind them smiling as she watched the new man that still went by her son’s name.

“He lets me sing to her, good thing he can just barely carry a tune. He brushes her hair, bathes her, he would change her diapers but the nanny and all you grands seem to beat him to it each time. I don’t think he’s really trying too hard on that piece of bonding. I admit I’m not either.”

“But you’re spending time with her? Getting comfortable?” Eve questioned with persistence.

“I know where you’re going, Eve, and yeah I’m such a night person and so is our girl. That’s when it’s just the three of us getting to know each other, marveling still that we’re this family. The real deal. I’m still anxious, you know, there’s so much to learn and I’m scared of her getting sick but so far, so good.”

Seeing John’s motion lessen Evangeline guessed that the baby was drifting off to sleep as John beckoned her near she heard his soft humming. When Van touched her daughter’s black hair her eyes sleepily opened for a moment and her parents grinned still surprised at their daughter’s deep gray eyes. Evangeline took Leigh in her arms and the three of them headed for the nursery unaware that Eve, Michael and Dinah had each silently watched and prayed that Leigh didn’t start screaming again the instant she was in her mother’s arms. They exhaled as the trio headed up the stairs and Leigh remained restful in her mother’s embrace. Maybe the worst was over.