how about a hug, hm?
Robert’s not really sure, if he’s a good dad. He’s trying, really, he is - but Ellen is only three weeks old, and it’s all so new, and scary, the sort of unknown territory you can’t prepare for.
He’d tried, sure. Robert had done his research, he’d talked with Aaron, he’d thought about how things had been when Victoria was born, but no amount of books, or online articles could have prepared him for the reality of having a newborn.
It was his first full weekend with her. They were still working out the custody thing, him and Rebecca, and so there was nothing official yet, no custody arrangement set in stone, and so he’d mostly had quiet afternoons and singular evenings with his daughter, Ellen Sugden-White bringing more noise into his life than he’d ever thought possible (she was really giving Liv, a run for her money, even at only a few weeks old.)
She was crying.
Robert hated when she cried.
Logically, he knew babies cried, but he still hated it when her little face would screw up, cheeks red as she’d scream, and he hated it even more when he didn’t know what was wrong.
He’d only changed her, and he’d fed her, when her first cries had begun, and so he didn’t know why she was so upset.
Maybe he was doing something wrong.
“How about a hug, hm?” Robert tried, scooping her into his arms. It was January now, cold and damp, and so she was wearing a cuddly soft onesie he was sure Victoria had bought for her, tiny dancing bears embroidered across the snow white material.
Ellen continued to wail, tiny face screwed up as she cried.
“I don’t like it when you cry,” Robert admitted, rocking her in his arms, something he’d seen other mums around the village do, something he’d seen Chrissie do, one recent afternoon in the pub.
Chrissie had thawed to him, lately. They’d never be best mates, no, but even she could see how earnestly he was trying to be a dad, trying to make up for all the things he’d done wrong in his life by pouring his heart into this new, tiny person, this little girl who didn’t know what a bad lot she’d gotten in life by having Robert Sugden as a dad just yet.
“I’m going to do my best to make you smile,” Robert continued, pacing the length of the spare room, the little room they’d turned into a nursery. Liv had been pissed, when she’d gotten back from Mauritius, and the nursery was the first time he’d seen her thaw - she’d painted little bears, and animals all across the back wall, a colourful explosion Ellen was sure to love as time went on.
Liv hadn’t forgiven him quite yet, but they were getting there.
“I’ll mess up,” Robert continued, grinning to himself as Ellen’s cries turned to soft snuffles, his daughters face pressed to his shoulder, cheek squished against the bare skin of his shoulder. “I’ll definitely mess up, but I promise I’ll always make sure you know you’re loved.”
Robert turned around, smiling as he noticed Aaron standing in the doorway. He’d been trying, trying so hard lately, and things had been hard, since Ellen arrived, but Aaron was soft on her.
Robert knew he was, because he knew what love looked like when it shone from every inch of Aaron’s face, and it looked exactly like the soft smile, and the wide eyes that were half focused on Robert, half focused on Ellen.
“We’ll be okay, won’t we?”
Aaron nodded, crossing the nursery in a few short steps. “I was always going to love something that’s a part of you,” he said quietly, brushing a gentle thumb across Ellen’s forehead, his daughter drifting to sleep.
“I don’t deserve you,” Robert couldn’t stop himself, couldn’t hold it in. He didn’t deserve the love and forgiveness Aaron had given him, the way he was willing to take on raising a child who’d been convinced out of anger, out of spite, out of hurt.
But then again, Aaron had always been a better man than Robert, and he had a heart big enough to give so, so much love to so many people, every single day.
“You do,” Aaron pressed a kiss to Robert’s bare shoulder. “She looks settled.”
Robert nodded, still rocking slightly on his heels. “I’m afraid I’m going to mess it all up,” he admitted, looking at Ellen. She was so perfect, so completely unaware of the realities of her life, the awkward family dinners and the unanswerable questions that were to come.
He didn’t want her to ever change from the little innocent bundle he held in his arms now, warm, tiny fingers pressed to his chest, right above where the bullet scar was, the harsh reminder that he’d almost missed out on all this.
“We love her,” Aaron nudged, looking at Robert intently. “We can figure the rest out.”
“We?” Robert hated how uncertain he still felt sometimes, how even now, it felt like walking on eggshells, wondering if he’d really been lucky enough to have had Aaron forgive him.
Aaron grinned as Ellen’s tiny fingers wrapped around his thumb, her grip surprisingly strong for such a small baby. “Yeah, we.”