That Soulmate Preference Deal Part 11
Her name was Annette, and she was the most beautiful thing in existence. Her eyes were big, green orbs that opened in little slits while she waved around tiny fists, her mouth wide and exploratory. She was so small, so very very small.
Time wasn’t very linear the first few days that I spent in the hospital. First, I was waking in an unfamiliar room, and Ashton was close at my side in a moment, calling a nurse in, cooing at me to relax, to lay still. I was holding the baby, my baby, but then she was being pulled away from me by Michael. I couldn’t breastfeed her, I was on too many drugs that couldn’t be passed onto her. Michael was at my side, holding my hand while the doctor explained our next steps. Or was it Ashton? That was the one thing that I knew never wavered. Ashton was always by my side, no matter what. Michael had to take the baby home, while I stayed in a hospital bed, aching and recovering.
When I had maintined conciousness for long enough, a doctor had sat down to explain what had happened. Having Annete had very nearly killed me, to the point that the plan had been to perform a mid-labour abortion, collapsing her head to relieve the stress on my spine. I had nearly been paralyzed, I had nearly bled out. But, Michael had taken control and told them to press through with trying to get the baby out, had asked them not to abort.
Michael had chosen the baby over me.
It was nearly two weeks before I was able to leave the hospital. Two weeks that I should’ve spent with my child, but instead spent laid up in a hospital bed with only Ashton to keep me company. Two weeks while Michael bonded with Annette, entertaining visitors who wanted to see the new baby. His mother was staying at the apartment, watching Annette for a few hours a day while Michael slipped out to come check on me in the hospital. It wasn’t a good idea to keep a baby in the ICU. I held my baby once, in the first two weeks of her life. Her whole life, and she had spent more time with her grandmother than her mother.
Ashton refused to leave. Whenever he was asked to, he merely flashed his left wrist. I would’ve minded, had I not been so absolutely terrified to be alone.
“Why are you still here, Ash?” I asked softly, after a security guard who hadn’t recognized him came in to ask him to leave, only to turn around and take his words back once he saw our marks.
Ash had only left when Michael had come by. I wasn’t even sure if he was showering. His eyes were red, he must not have slept. “Do you want me to leave?”
My chest seized up at the idea of being alone in the room, the idea of slipping away in the night, of csomething further going wrong. I merely held his hand tighter, and he chuckled slightly, looking at my fingers turning white aorund his. “I’m just scared to lose you,” he explained after a few moments. He brought my hand to his lips.
“I almost died, didn’t I?” I asked. “I could still die, right?”
Ashton didn’t let go of my hand, speaking into my skin. “You’re not going to, you’re out of the woods by now.”
“But, I almost did, right?” I tried to sit up straighter, tried to keep my breathing calm. “I almost died, because Michael didn’t listen.”
Ashton closed his eyes, and I watched as a tear slipped down his cheek. “I was so scared, Xan,” was is response. “Michael came out covered in blood, and he was telling them that you wanted the baby over you, and I knew you didn’t want the fucking baby.” Pain etched across his forehead, wrinkling his skin. He composed himself though, letting go of my hand. “I mean, she’s beautiful, and you’re okay now, and that’s what matters,” he concluded.
I watched as he stood and walked to the counter, where there sat two neat bouquets, one from Luke and Caryssa and the other from Calum. He ran his fingers over the petals. “Is it, though?” I asked.
He looked back at me expectantly.
“Is it bad that I’m angry?” I continued.
“What are you angry about?”
“I’m angry that he chose her,” I pressed on. “I’m angry that I have to sit in this room and can’t hold the baby I almost died for. Angry that Michael didn’t listen to what I wanted. Angry that he’s not here taking care of me, angry that you have to.”
Ashton came back to my side. “I’d be angry, too, Xandra.” He huffed slightly. “Fuck, I am angry. I wanted you to be happy.”
I looked across the room, seeing part of Sydney’s skyine twinkling in the distance. “Everything’s going to be different now, Ash.”
“I know,” he replied. “If you want me to leave, after you’re all better…. I will. I was actually looking at moving, so you won’t even have to see me anymore.”
I stared at him for a long moment before repeating myself. “Everything’s different now, Ashton…” I swallowed. “And I want you to stay.”
It was heartbreaking, to say the least. I finally got to be home with my baby, but since she had spent two weeks bottle feeding with Daddy, Annette refused to latch. She’d wail and wail, and nothing I did could help. Michael was constantly sweeping in with a bottle and taking her off, calming her down within minutes.
My eyes were constantly burning with the threat of tears. If Annette wasn’t crying, I was. Michael had sent his mother home, and spent the majority of the first month going between his two girls, feeding and pampering. The counselor I had met with before was diagnosing me with postpartum depression, and yet Michael had a smile fixed to his face. To him, everything was fine, everything was perfect. Our little family was thriving. It made my skin itch, that he was so happy and I was so not.
Finally, with help from a coach, I was breastfeeding Annette before she was two months old. She seemed to warm up to me, no longer crying for Michael when I was holding her. I started to feel better. Michael and I, somehow, were finding time to have sex again. He was making dinners, we were back to normal, almost, just with a little plus one. But, somehow, it didn’t quite feel the same.
However, once I got back to work, back in shape from whatever injuries I had sustained, things started looking up again. Caryssa had her baby boy around the time Annette turned four months,a little blonde thing with bright blue eyes, and we began to have little playdates. I got out of the house with Annette. Things were going alright, I was climbing out of the depression, and we really were becoming a family.
I never brought up to Michael that I had intially been angry with his decision, because somehow it stopped mattering. Watching Annette grow up, walking before she was even one, was too fantastic. Imagining a world without her became terrifying, and I knew Michael’s heart had simply been in a different place. Now, he was a stay-at-home dad, and I was back at the zoo part-time, and we had this beautiful little girl toddling around the apartment.
Annete was nearly a year and a half old before we trusted anyone but the two of us to watch her alone. Though Karen had watched her during those first two scary weeks, I didn’t want to leave Annette with any one other than Michael. However, he had begun around month 13 asking for a date night, even a couple days off to do something alone. It began to seem more and more of a good idea as Annette was starting to coo and babble, having passed her first words. It seemed like a weekend away wouldn’t absolutely devastate us.
Michael had wanted to set his mother up at the apartment again, but it hadn’t felt right to me, and I found myself suggesting Ashton. Michael had resisted, not because of any threat to himself, but merely because he “had spent years touring with him, and did you know he can’t even get his underwear cleaned regularly?” But, then, Ashton had been free and his mother had not, so we found ourselves packing up to spend a weekend in Brisbane while handing Ashton emergency numbers.
It was just like it had been years ago, being alone with Michael. Strangely, it took me back to that first day, now almost three years back, when he and I had sat side by side at the table in the Starbucks, holding hands and laughing. While we had our dates, Ashton had been posting pictures of Annette to instagram, and the fans were having a field day over “Mikey’s Babygirl and Uncle Ashton.”
I had been laughing at a picture of Annette, sitting in a large pot in our kitchen, when I had looked up to see Michael on one knee, holding out a diamond ring.
“Marry me, Xan?” His voice was deep, confident. A smirk played at his lips.
“Well, duh,” I replied simply, stepping towards him and letting him slide the ring on my finger before pulling him tightly to my chest, bringing my lips to his.
Now the fans were really having a field day, as Michael’s instagram was suddenly showcasing a picture of the two of us, our anchored thumbs side by side, a glittering diamond ring on my finger.
We were driving back late Sunday night, when Michael had gotten a craving for some TimTams and we had swung by the store. I found myself holding our place in line while he ran back for a carton of milk, smiling as I noticed that the tabloids at check out already had gotten the news about our engagement.
However, my smile quickly faded and I found myself slamming the magazine down on the conveyor belt, flipping through the pages. In a moment, I was on my phone, having abandoned our groceries, scrolling through instagram.
We hadn’t noticed, on the phone screen, but the blown up image on the cover of the magazine revealed something I hadn’t considered. Our two tattoos were clear in frame, as was the ring. But, as it was my left hand, it was also apparent that there was a mark on my wrist, as evidenced by the neat A S H scrawled on my skin.
Tumblr figured it out first. It was less than 24 hours since Michael had posted the picture, and it was zoomed in photosets even after he had removed it. Alongside it, however, was another picture, of my child, but she was primarly cropped out of it. Because, in the reflection of the pot, you could see Ashton’s hand holding his phone to take the picture.
And, if you enhanced the photo, like most fans had, you could clearly see the name “Alexandra Monroe” on his left wrist.